In case you missed it, Aussie hip-hop royalty Bliss N Eso joined Telstra Road to Discovery last week for an unforgettable live-streamed Master Class. It was two and a half hours of insights, ideas and ideologies from the trio as they reflected on their history together and shared their plans for the future. We take a look back at some of the key tips Jonathon Notley (MC Bliss), Max McKinnon (MC Eso) and Tarik Ejjamai (DJ Izm) had to share.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF FREE MUSIC
Despite CDs still being the medium of choice when the trio started out, they were keenly aware of the power that free music holds. “It was like a sweatshop,” says Ejjamai. “I’d have a computer at mine… Jonny would have another couple of computers at his house, all simultaneously burning our CD.”
“And we’d give it out free to as many places as we could; it was a hustle,” continues Notley. “Every live show that we would do, we would have a stack. And we would open up for these international acts, and no one knew who we were but we knew that if we could get just a little bit of engagement and then be like, ‘who wants a free CD?’ Everyone would be like, ‘hell yeah!’ And that was a way of spreading the music early on.”
WHEN IT COMES TO LIVE PERFORMANCES, HAVE FUN BUT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
Aside from being a musician’s bread and butter these days, a live show is paramount to growth and career longevity. Notley says, “From early on we took playing shows really serious, and I guess that’s how we really founded our following. Every opportunity we got we just jumped at it.”
“We would go and rehearse for weeks” says McKinnon, “for a tiny little slot that was 15 minutes when the doors had just opened and there’s literally like 10 people walking in while you’re playing. But we realised that every gig was a stepping stone to the next one, so we took it really seriously and eventually started to make headway. And we were there on time to sound check every day; we were professional,” explains McKinnon. And as Max wisely points out, there’s never going to be a substitute for the real thing. “You can’t download a live show,” so making that evening out of the house a memorable one that sees punters returning next time you’re in town is all important.
RECOGNISE AND HARNESS THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
“There’s always different ways to engage with your fan base, and it’s always good to push the envelope,” says Notley. “Whether it’s a competition to see, ‘hey where should we go on our tour’ or what song should we play for our setlist, or even creating an iPhone app or an Android app that our fans can speak to us directly on.
“One of the most awesome things about sites like Facebook is Insights,” Notley continues. (Which shows users key information about those engaging with social media content). “You can see exactly your demographic; how many guys and how many girls, their ages, what country are they from and you can see where your strengths lie, and tailor a tour exactly to that.
LEARN THE WRITING STYLE THAT WORKS FOR YOU AND KEEP AT IT
“Nothing happens without the music,” says Notley. “The music is the first point for everything. When we go back into the studio we just zone everything out; it’s why we get out of the city. We get out of our day to day and things that constantly distract us; it’s just the three of us and a producer in the house.
And on those days where the frustration is at its peak and you feel like throwing in the towel? Well, McKinnon simply says the secret is that “as soon as you think you’re getting writers block, squash it, kill it, and imagine a white canvas where everything is up for grabs. Then you’re not trapped in that little box anymore…Just stay on it and know that writers block is such a mental thing.”
KEEP AT IT, BECAUSE EVENTUALLY HARD WORK PAYS OFF
“It was tough, we definitely had our fair share of ridicule” says Notley. “And there were shows where we had maybe four people in the front row” continues McKinnon, “but that was still awesome for us.”
“Hell yes it was hard,” says Ejjamai, “but in a good way. The harder the journey the better.”