There are no rules, the infrastructure’s been built, now is the time to follow your vision, don’t listen to naysayers, don’t listen to me, you will break through with your art if you are an artist, most people are not, they just want attention, they just want to be rich and famous, but if you know where you want to go and how you want to get there, if your music is unique, not derivative, if it’s ear-pleasing, if people catch on, you will have an army following you, irrelevant of the radio, irrelevant of playlists, irrelevant of press, the tools are at your fingertips, GO!
If you’re not hip-hop, don’t sign with a major label, they won’t be able to do anything for you, but they probably don’t want you anyway. This does not mean you should add a featured rapper, this does not mean you should add drum machines, this just means you should know who you are, the greatest artists are not malleable, if you don’t fit into the system, don’t try to mold it to yourself, it doesn’t work that way, if anything you will bend, not them.
You’re your own publicity machine, and probably record company too, if you’re not prepared to do the hard work of selling yourself, don’t even start. If you’ve got a mythical idea of a huge machine that you just need to plug into to get ahead you couldn’t be more wrong, today it’s all about grinding, you start with your friends and families, you trade opening slots with other acts, if you’re not a networker you’re not a successful musician today. Note, I’m not saying you’re a hypester, a spammer, just that you know people who will help spread the word, and if they won’t, make new music they will circulate or get new friends.
The most important person on your team is your agent. Sign with someone who can get you work, it’s just that simple. You can have an agent without a manager, sometimes that’s the best way to go, for if you gain traction you can get a better manager. Odds are you won’t get a first tier agent at first, but despite all the hype about record companies, today’s music business functions on promoters and agents, they see what reacts, they spread the buzz, if you play and people show up and love you, or even if few show up and you slay them, you’re on your way.
It’s about songs, it’s always been about songs, if you’re not a writer you’re at the mercy of other writers, and they don’t want to give you their best material. Your first songs will suck, everybody’s do. Then you’ll get better and think you’ve arrived at the destination but later you’ll look back at this work and laugh. Start NOW!
Never underestimate melody, changes hook people, if they can sing along, if what you’re doing is memorable, it’s an easier route to success.
Ignore the trappings. Getting attention is much easier than having a career. The newspapers constantly review records that go straight into the dumper.
Practice, whatever you do. Play, sing, make beats, experience counts. And push yourself, remember it’s 10,000 hours of HARD PRACTICE! And if you’re bragging to everybody how hard you’re working you’re a wanker, everybody who’s successful worked hard.
Never underestimate the power of free, if you’re not willing to give it away, you’re not willing to be successful. People will give you ALL their money, never mind their bodies, if you make it. Load people up with freebies, whether it be music or tweets or…
Don’t employ social media unless it’s you and you have a voice. If you see tweeting as a sentence, don’t. Same deal with Instagram and Snapchat. That doesn’t mean another band member or your significant other can’t participate in your stead, as long as they’re honest as to who they are. You’ve got to have an identity, you’ve got to be vulnerable, for every hater you’ll have tons of fans hanging on every word. Everybody’s lonely, everybody’s looking for truth, everybody’s looking for someone who can understand them, when done right this is what your music does, provide a link between you and the listener, as does your social media presence.
Mystery is history. Illusions are passe. Everybody’s trackable online. Don’t lie, don’t employ artifice, your career will be shorter.
Play wherever anybody wants you, even if you’re not being paid or being paid bupkes. You’re looking to infect someone. One fan can make a huge difference, can bring people to your next gig, turn people on to your music.
Don’t think of streaming as revenue, think of your presence on services as landmines, this is the greatest time for unknowns ever, used to be you had to be on the radio or have your music bought to be heard, now anybody can click and listen.
Don’t complain. No one wants to hear it. You’ve got no leverage, no power, when you weigh in on streaming payments and other (theoretical) inadequacies people laugh, leave those battles to the big boys, hopefully, you’ll be a big boy (or girl) soon!
Be nice, but don’t be a doormat. Be able to say no, but don’t be a prick.
Know that nobody is that big anymore, nobody reaches everybody, which means the odds are not against you like they used to be, it’s easier to gain an audience and sustain than ever, although it’s harder than ever to move up the food chain, if you’re not a lifer, don’t even start, if you think you’ll give it a few years and then decide whether to go to graduate school, go to graduate school right away, cut out the middleman.
Not everybody was born to be a professional musician. Some of the best players don’t have the constitution. Be self-savvy, if the other band blows you off the stage, maybe you should give up, find somewhere where you can truly shine.
The best work is done when no one is paying attention. If you’re online spreading the word all the time, you’re not honing your act.
Capture inspiration, a true artist is in tune with this, they know when the bell goes off, they lay it down then and don’t self-edit. They look at it tomorrow and see what they’ve got. Oftentimes it’s genius. And don’t let you or anyone else cock it up. When you’re channeling the gods, you’re incredibly powerful. Legends yearn for these moments. Sure, some people hone songs over time, but most don’t, they wait for that spark, CAPTURE IT!