Sometimes for a musician, fine tuning isn’t just about pitch.
At least that’s what Niagara Falls musician, YouTuber and music manager Matt Guarasci has come to learn.
In a flooded industry where it’s easy to spread yourself too thin, he says a big part of success is figuring out branding, knowing what is good and bad for your image and treating music like a business.
Niagara Now sat down with Guarasci over a coffee at William’s Fresh Cafe in Niagara Falls to get his thoughts about how he keeps focused, what he’s been working on lately and his advice to other up-and-comers.
Over the course of his entertainment career, the 23-year-old has had his fingers in plenty of projects across the Niagara region, including performing as a session musician, playing in and managing a long list of bands, making music videos and helping plan community events like The Socials and Springlicious.
One could easily fill 1,000 words and then some just to list the things he's done.
The problem with doing so many things, Guarasci said, is people wind up spreading themselves too thin — the story is all too familiar for struggling small town musicians.
For Guarasci, a big part of learning to manage himself was learning what to say yes and no to.
“You have to ask yourself ‘is this going to benefit my experience? Is this going to further me as a musician? Is this going to perceive my value as a musician to be greater than or less than?’”
He said contrary to what some people think, being too broad in your horizons can actually limit progress by making your branding and image hard to define.
“I think that’s a thing that a lot of musicians overlook — how you’re perceived in both your online and offline personality,” he said.
“You want to keep building your brand up … musicians — especially with social media — have the ability now to shape a perception of how people really take you seriously,” he said.
“Even something as simple as getting professionally done logos, putting out professional video and photo content … presenting yourself in an overall more so professional aesthetic manner … it gets so overlooked.”
Guarasci, who is striving to market himself as a session drummer, said one of the ways he’s been branding his image is through his YouTube channel, where he uploads a series of drum videos covering popular tunes.
For him, having basically been born with sticks in his hands, drum videos are the perfect fit.
For others, the outlet could be anything that focuses in on their craft.
He said for musicians like himself who play instruments that aren't typically shining in the forefront of bands — like bass and drums — finding innovative and uncoventional ways to get your name out is important.
“And that’s one thing that I’m learning. I’m no expert. But if it’s working for me, maybe it’ll work for you too,” said Guarasci.
“You can actually make a partial living, or even a living doing music and utilizing social media as your platform to say ‘this is who I am, check me out.’”
He said while taking the right angles is a big part of it, there are other important factors too, such as quality of work, perseverance and plain old talent.
Artists shouldn’t just put out content for the sake of putting out content, he said.
Instead, they should focus on quality over quantity and dedicate the time to put out a professional product.
He said his most successful drum video to date took around five tedious hours to record right, though it paid off when it attracted the attention of international drum YouTuber Ricky Ficarelli, who invited him to Los Angeles to record a collaboration.
“This guy lives in the United States, he has no idea who I am,” said Guarasci.
Ficarelli was diagnosed with cancer and the collaboration was put on hold, but nonetheless, Guarasci said the experience only enforced the idea that he should be putting proper time into everything he does.
“I find the ones that I just put out for the sake of putting content out don’t do as well … If it’s going to resonate with you then it’s going to resonate with people.”
Guarasci also said image is a big part of music.
The way you dress and the quality of artists you collaborate with can have a profound effect on the way the world views you professionally, he said.
Looking at Guarasci, it’s clear he dresses the part. While we're chatting he’s sporting a black leather jacket and spiky hair — one look and you know he’s a musician.
As far as what Guarasci is up to these days, he’s still actively pinpointing his own areas of focus, though he said his end goal is to be a touring session musician playing stadium shows.
“Ideally what I want to do is continue to play with bands who want to do things on a global level. That’s the end goal.”
It’s a dream many musicians come to think isn’t realistic, though Guarasci believes if a creative and focused approach is taken, anything is possible.
“Like with anything, you get in what you get out.”
Guarasci puts out one drum video every week on his YouTube channel. You can watch of his videos below.