Independent Rockstar

Insight for Independent Musicians

Fail Big

It was a little over one week until my CD release party. Two weeks earlier, the master CD had arrived at the pressing plant broken, and my designer had had a catastrophic computer failure when she tried to upload the artwork (I ended up uploading the final proof from my laptop at a local bar). The pressing plant said they’d do what they could, but could make no promises that my CD Release party would actually have any CDs at them.

So you know what I did? I decided to FAIL BIG. If this wasn’t gonna happen, it wasn’t gonna happen loudly and publicly. In the midst of what had been a crappy, crappy year, I had managed to finance and record a CD, one that I was proud of. And now this close to the finish line and it looked like it wasn’t gonna happen? I just decided, “if I’ve gotta fail, let there be a lot of people who see this baby go up in flames.” So I called a publicist friend of mine and asked her to get me on TV. Then I called another friend and asked him to set up a three-camera shoot.

At the time I thought I was taking the road less traveled, now I realize it’s just the M.O. of success.

There are hundreds of mitigating factors in determining whether or not you’re gonna “make it” in this business* . Some of these we can control and some we can’t, and luck plays no small part in this. But it is unacceptable to fail because of half-measures, timidity or fear. The potential for failing big ironically ensures that that is less likely to happen, if for no other reason than that your fear of failure becomes more pronounced than our fear of success.

More pragmatically, the concept of failing loudly and publicly has a galvanizing effect on audience, the people who believe in you. Your fans aren’t your fans simply because your music is good, they’re fans because they want to be a part of something that grows. This is certainly a topic for another post, but if your audience believes in your success, you owe it to them to succeed. That’s not something that is going to happen without you falling on your face once or twice.

In the end the manufacturer was able to overnight a case to me, the extra publicity brought a ton of new people to the show. I played to the fullest, quietest and most attentive audience I’ve ever played to in this town, and made a bunch of new friends and fans in the process.

So there you have it, if you’re gonna fail, fail big. Oh and don’t book a CD release party until you actually have the CDs in hand.

* Whatever that means.

About Butch Ross

Since discovering the dulcimer in 2003, Ross has become an in-demand performer at folk and dulcimer festivals through the US and Europe.
Butch Ross

2 Responses to “Fail Big”

  1. wilson says:

    Well it also doesn’t hurt to have publicist friend who can just “get you on TV” or the resources to just set up a 3 camera shoot.

    • Butch Ross says:

      Yeah, but that’s not the point. The point was to get as much exposure as possible, to force the fates (or whatever you wanna call it) on the issue. To change the story and to shift my own focus from one of being a defeatist to one of fighting for my life. The mouse cornered, if you will.

      And in the end, the thing that brought the most people to the show were the two local radio interviews that I set up myself. Not the morning news interview at 7am.

      And yes, it’s lucky to have an acquaintance who is willing to come and film for fun (and for free) but two years on, I have yet to see any of that footage…again, that wasn’t the point either.

      Thank you for writing…and for reading.