Cal and Rez's road to success has been unusual. They're an unsigned act whose first album, “The Scotch Tape,” hit No. 8 on iTunes last year, primarly because of an Internet-savvy fanbase, the group's relentless touring, and the word-of-mouth success of videos like Timeflies Tuesdays. Their July mixtape, “Under the Influence,” also found success.
Keep in mind: These guys did this without a label. So, we thought, who better to mentor aspiring musicians who how to start your own music career? We wanted to get a nuts-and-bolts view at the step-by-step process you need to go through to “make it.” And, from talking to the duo, it's clear that it's not really about having the nicest-looking webpage or best equipment or even most dedicated fanbase. Success came from actually buckling down and getting some songs together.
1. First, it's about writing good songs.
Having good equipment at first isn't important, Rez said. “You can use Garageband, a crappy microphone, and a laptop. You don't even need a laptop if you know how to use a tape deck.”
“First, you have to write good songs,” he continued. “Write good music and be confident in what you’re doing. if you have good music, you’re set. Someone will manage you, someone will set up a tour for you. Guys are spending too much thinking about their Facebook pages and what people want, and not enough on making the songs they want to make.”
Cal: “That stuff falls into place.” “You find what you need. The most important is making the music you want to make.”
Inspiration, they said, is now a Google search away. Tutorials for any kind of sound you're looking to get help from are available online.
2. Build a team around you—someone you know and trust
“This has worked out well for us, and it’s been easy for us, but build a great team of people around you,” Rez said. “We have people with great ideas around us. Having people who believe in you, who want to work with you, is also important.”
“The person who is hungry to work with you and isn’t complacent is needed,” said Cal.
That team should help by reaching out to blogs and sites that will promote your music. Rez: “There’s a blog network where they see each other and repost each other. Once you get into that blogosphere it starts to catch on.” “Our manager Jared, we picture him late at night Gchatting with these bloggers and talking to them for their support,” said Cal.
3. Take your time.
Cal: “Take your time until you’re proud of your music before releasing it. We were pushed at the beginning to push more and more music out and if we did, then we would have made things we wouldn't have liked. Be proud of the music. Take your time and take as long as it needs.”
Said Rez, “There’s nothing that I look back on in the album and say I wish I had done that differently. If you don’t do take your time and you go back and listen to your stuff, it hurts.”
4. But, conversely, work hard on each song.
“Work hard and put more stuff out,” Rez said. “You have to put in a lot of time to do a record. A lot of artists don't get that—you turn on the radio and hear one huge song, and then they don’t put an album out for five years. You've got to work for it!”
This sometimes means missed nights out.
Rez: “We have to stay in sometimes on Saturdays, and we’ll miss parties and going out. I'll get texts from my friends who say “Come out” and I’ll say, “I can’t, I have to work!” and they'll go, “You don't have a job!” [laughs]. People don't get that this is a job.”
5. Play a good live show.
Said Cal, “Do as many open mic nights as you can. Get comfortable on stage and in front of people. People want to get that vibe that you know what you’re doing and you like it up there.”
“Anyone making great music in their dorm room has to go out and play in front of people,” said Rez. “Actually start playing bars!”
Timeflies' newest mixtape can be found here.