My Manifesto-or-My explanation to those who may not understand,
You don’t owe me anything, but if you’re ever curious about why I do things the way I do them, I’d love if you read on. I know I am doing things the hard way and that expecting to be successful in an already ridiculously undependable field while not doing the most tried and true things, is a little farfetched. I don’t care. If I want to be successful as a musician, I should: spend a lot of time in Nashville and LA, spend my nights in a van or a motel room, play shows all across the country, pay everything I make to an agent or promoter, pay for studios to record my songs, co-write songs with writers who have cuts, pay for my singles to get played on the radio, and hope, that after all this, I have two cents to rub together. This would possibly be acceptable to me if I was the only person I had to worry about, but I am not. I have a family that I care for and who very much depends on me to earn a decent living. Not only that, but they’d like me to be around instead of on the road, and so would I. I would hate waking up in stinky rooms instead of the house my family slept in. So, all the ways people go about “making it” in the music business aren’t acceptable options for me, by my own choice.
Instead of these previously identified methods to success, I, and my team, have opted for alternative practices. We do most of our creation in house. If you hear a track, or watch a video, and it doesn’t seem like it was created by a team of trained industry pros, that’s because it wasn’t. Since we have a hard time selling music anymore due to the streaming takeover, I have a hard time justifying spending the money it would cost to go into a studio to record. I’m not arguing that the product would be better, I’m just arguing that my money is better spent paying my mortgage, feeding my family, and providing the protection of things like insurance and IRAs. The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.
I also make sure that when I book a show, the venue has enough faith in me to guarantee me a decent amount of money, so I have to make up the difference in my nightly goal with tips and mech sales by a smaller percentage. We have broken down how much we need to earn and how many shows a week we need to earn it in so that we can do like I said above and pay for the things we need to pay for. This means we’re not playing lots of the real songwriter type places who want to charge a cover, want us to open for someone else for free, or want us to play a free audition night. That means, some places that don’t seem the most conducive to music, but pay us well, get preferential treatment when we’re scheduling. Rest assured, if you see me playing in front of a football crowd, I’m getting paid well. This also usually means that I don’t get to play as many of my original songs as I’d like to and while that’s a bummer, I don’t have the luxury of being a starving artist begging for someone to listen to me. I do, however, know thousands of cover songs that the people who tip me want to hear. I sure do thank you all for that! The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.
In my career, I have recorded in studios, paid radio promoters, played exposure gigs for free, been on the road, kissed multiple butts to try to get the attention of someone who might help me find success, but the most success I have ever had is from what I can manage in house. Just my wife and I manage to: book 3-6 shows a week, keep Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the website calendar up to date, send out communication to our fan base, keep inventory of merchandise, maintain the PA gear and instruments, write, record, and release new music, release music videos, grow our fanbase, promote developments, maintain our vehicles, and probably more things I’m not thinking about. We keep good lists, follow up on everything (even when people don’t reciprocate) and communicate as much as we possibly can. This causes us to have to cut some corners like not having the most expensive recording equipment, taking our own pictures, and basically putting out media that seems homemade. The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.
What we are going for is the human interaction. You’ve heard me say that we’re not in the music business, but the people business. When COVID-19 shut the world down, I realized more than ever how much people need to be able to connect, and how powerful a tool music is to that end. I also know how much I enjoy entertaining folks on weekends or evenings. I love watching husbands and wives dance together. I love when people hear their favorite song and smile or when they like one of my songs enough that they sing the words along with me. This is the realization that showed me the steps to being a successful musician aren’t the steps I should be taking. Instead, I would like to take steps to connect people to one another using music as the vehicle to do that. The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.
We like to sell the merch since we can’t sell the music anymore because that’s just not how the world works. Sure, we could spend the time and money to create content that competes with Taylor Swift for your attention, but that hardly seems like the right thing to do, even if we could afford it. No, I’m gonna put out some songs, make videos with picture of my fans in them, sing my heart out on stage and hope that everyone in the audience knows that I’m giving it all I have for the sake of whoever is there, and that you’ll buy a T-shirt and stream the singles.
Our merch is provided by a local, independently owned company. Michael keeps his prices competitive, provides the best product, works with us on design, turns the jobs around quickly, and is personally invested in our satisfaction. We’ve been approached by other suppliers but are loyal customers until we have a reason not to be. When you buy merch from us, you’re keeping two small businesses in business. We take half of what you pay and deposit it for future merch buying, and half goes into the business coffers. Michael helps us make sure we always have your size, and if we don’t, we can get it quickly. All of this is run behind the scenes so we can continue to generate revenue and you can continue to look so good while you’re advertising for Joshua Ingram. I could use national print shops for musicians, or use bundled product from music publishers, like publish with me and I’ll get my friend to give you a merch discout, blah blah blah, but I prefer to work with a local who knows and cares about what I need. The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.
I believe in organic promotion. Nowadays, if I want you to know something, I have to pay for it to be promoted on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and everything else. If I want you to hear about it through print media, I’ve got to take out ads. I’ve got to spend hours a day posting and blogging, begging you to like, add, follow, subscribe, share, retweet…and it’s exhausting. I believe that if you’ll really give my product a chance, you might like it enough to do all those things yourself, and if you don’t, no matter how much bought-and-paid-for hype I create, it isn’t going to enable an unlikable product to become likable. Sometimes, I may make something that isn’t very good. That happens. I’d rather let the people who are already fans decide if they like what I put out. I hope that if you DO like what I put out, you’ll know it helps me when you share it, and that you’ll naturally want to do so. If you don’t want to do it, that’s up to you. The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.
If I moved to Nashville, I would be around the heart of the music industry. There would be opportunities every day for me to meet and work with successful musicians. I’d be able to collaborate with people who live and die for the music scene. The odds of my success would skyrocket because I would be in the place where successful people go. I would be far from home, far from my children, and my children would be far from me. I already miss a lot of concerts, volleyball games, and plays because of my job. If I lived in Nashville, I would miss all of them. I already miss them when they don’t sleep in my house, but if I lived in Nashville, I would miss them every night. I already miss chances to be out and about with them, but if I lived in Nashville, I would miss all of them. I know being successful in music means sacrificing a number of personal comforts, but the opportunity to raise my kids is not one of them. I will not put success in the music business above my family. The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.
Like I said at the beginning, I know that what I’m doing is against almost every recommended tactic to be successful in music, but that’s ok. I’m not trying to be successful in music as much as I am trying to be successful with people. We at Joshua Ingram, have the ability to create original music and video, distribute it to the world on multiple platforms, perform the material in front of an audience and be paid for it, sell merchandise to fans, and get to know people as they get to know us. I don’t chart in the top 100, I don’t play massive venues, I don’t have millions of followers, and I don’t care. That’s not why we’re doing it. The effect of this decision makes me someone that the pros in the music industry tend to overlook, and I’m fine with that.