Death metal taught me everything I needed to know about starting a business.
I’m from Florida. Tampa, specifically. We’re known for strip clubs, and for being the pioneer city for many death metal bands.
Somewhere in between listening to my favorite albums by my favorite band, Death, and being hot and miserable (while wearing a predominantly black wardrobe), I decided I should join a metal band.
And we were good. Search hard enough you can find them. They’re still good.
What I didn’t know then was that I would learn some valuable lessons on things I shouldn’t do when running a business. Here’s how they came into play when I became an entrepreneur.
You would think in a world dominated by various extremes of fashion that this wouldn’t matter.
On one hand, you have men wearing tank tops, trucker hats, and high top sneakers. On the other hand, you have corpse paint, body armor, and a myriad of homoerotic or glam type garments. These adorn the frames of men who often don’t lift, drink too much beer, and love their cats.
It is a personality thing. Egos run rampant, but with those egos, you still need to be able to communicate effectively and professionally.
You’ll be dealing with sound guys, club owners, and (hopefully) fans. So, just because the sound guy has been at this club for 15 years and is a surly piece of shit, you don’t have to be. The communities are small, and people talk.
Even if your music is great, nobody wants to deal with an Axl Rose wannabe with half the talent and none of the star power.
And this holds true in other forms of business. People need to trust you. This comes down to how you present yourself; before you even open your mouth to speak, people are already making judgements about you. What you’re wearing, and how you hold yourself, communicates an enormous amount of information.
In a lot of cases, you’re the product. You’re selling yourself, so dress professionally. This tells the world that you know what you’re doing and can be trusted.
To that end, I recently made a vow to myself to stop wearing sweat pants in public. It was hard because they’re so damn comfortable, but I had to make the sacrifice. Now, I relegate them to the gym for my own workouts.
Coincidentally, I have been talking to more people in person, and adding them to my email list upon every meeting.
Find a happy medium between what you need to portray as a brand, and what you have to do to be a people person.
When I was Death Metallin’ around Tampa, I also taught guitar lessons to make ends meet.
It was a great job, despite the fact that I worked for someone else. I learned to teach, learned to interact with a younger crowd, and all kinds of great things.
Often times, the youngsters would get the idea that they wanted to start a band, too. I knew talking them out of it was out of the question, so I went a different route.
They would always worry about finding members or getting better instruments before they would concentrate on the most important aspect of the whole process: the song writing.
You don’t need a single other person to start riffing out ideas.
You don’t need the Ultra Big Ass Flying V Shaped guitar from heaven to start playing one.
You don’t need much to get an idea, and in the same way, you don’t need a whole lot of money to start taking action towards your business goal.
Yes, I get that people can help you. There are loads of great partnerships in music and business, but you have to start with just you, and then can refine that process later. It’s a long game, not a short game.
When I first started my fitness business, I knew I needed a website. I also knew precisely dick about making one, so I had two options. I could sit around with my hand in my pants doing nothing and “waiting for money” to pay someone to do it, or I could do it myself.
I took the few skills I had and I made my website.
It is the very same one linked in the bottom, and though I still don’t think it’s the best it can be, it’s certainly better than what I first designed, and it can only get better from here.
This is the same with anything. We learn from gross to fine, and the more you do your activity, the finer it gets. This goes for everything from guitar playing to businessing, so go out there and get started. There’s always something you can do to get better, but if you’ve got to get started in order to have something to improve.
After you managed to get established and are in that phase of dishing out your product, you won’t be making much money at first.
And that’s OK. If you play your cards right, you will, but one of the biggest detriments most new bands deal with is not making themselves scarce.
In my younger days of performing, we would play shows every single goddamn week. Sometimes two a night, Friday and Saturday. And then we would do it the following week.
Yes, there can be value to this. For your development as a performer, it definitely works well. However, our shows were all within a two mile radius of each other. Every week. So there was nothing new. Maybe there was a new song or two, but mostly the same shit.
So what happens?
Your fan base (which will likely be your girlfriends/boyfriends/friends at first) pulls a Homer Simpson. Just like the time when he wanted to meet Mr. T, he kept saying “I’ll go a little later. I’ll go a little later,” and he never got to meet Mr. T.
The same will happen to you. All the bands we admired in the area played out 3-4 times a YEAR to massive crowds.
It’s a regional thing. If you are at a point where you are making money, you can play out every night of the week. If you are writing original stuff and plan to make it that way, just make sure you play out in different cities and states every time.
Make yourself scarce to the region.
In business, this is useful because if you try to cast your marketing net too wide, how will you connect with your audience?
If I can train anyone, how will I connect with all them? Early on, I would take any client. Now my market tends to skew towards women, 25-34 who are into comic books, sci-fi, and Star Wars. Though I am not a woman, I absolutely love those things and can have in depth conversations on those subjects ad nauseum.
If you’re making yourself available to anyone, what incentivizes a person to want to work with you?
If you are connecting deeply and becoming scarce to others, you will be wanted more.
These days, I operate as a personal trainer in Tampa. I spend a lot of time listening to Lana del Rey and other artists while I build my own empire.
Those early days were valuable. I was part of a business, and I was awful at running it, so I quickly learned what to do and not to do, and I’m now amble to impart that onto others.