So sang and mimed the Buggles (?) in the video that launched MTV. These days MTV may have found there’s more money in reality TV than music videos, but the statement is truer than ever, though the musicians with good faces for radio tend to be stillborn rather than ever becoming radio stars before being killed off.
As I’ve repeatedly commented here and elsewhere, and as emerges from my earlier post on gendered musician recruitment and the very interesting comment on it, image really matters to musicians now. Live music makes money; records don’t significantly; video streaming via YouTube (mostly) is arguably as important as radio play at the top of the professional game. And at the bottom of it (where I am!), it comes down to one of my key ideas about music as a career:
However good you are, no-one will hire you unless they get to hear how good you are.
And in order for them to hear that, you have to first get them to notice you and bother listening. And you will mostly get that done through the strongly visual media of websites, emails and letters. As Matt’s comment points out, people make advance judgments about your music based on visual, non-aural factors like (apparent) age, gender balance, visual style etc. If they don’t (semi-subconsciously) think you look like you sound right, the odds are they will never click through to Soundcloud and find out if you actually do. (And this is assuming a client not explicitly recruiting to fit a specific ‘look’.)
Don’t assume this is restricted to bikini-clad pop/RnB singers or glossily produced boybands; even classical musicians need to play this game, they just have to project a different image.
Well, I can’t do much about my actual face or body, but I can and have or will shortly deal with the following:
- promo photos, taken in a studio by a professional photographer with all the associated fancy lighting and plain backgrounds (and very conscious clothing choices!)
- since I have to submit some audition extracts as videos, getting someone with a proper video camera and who knows what she’s doing to do the filming, and dressing almost as I would for a desk job interview for the purpose
- putting together a video showreel
And I suspect if I had known in advance really what I was doing, I would have focused less on recording a succession of demo tracks and got started on these (well, the first and third anyway) earlier.