1. Are you willing to work?
Plan on giving up television. Nights out with your friends. Marriage. Children. Making it is about sacrifice. Talent is at best fifty percent, desire is the rest.
2. Can you interact with other people?
Sure, history is laden with abusive rock stars. But they weren’t abusive at the beginning. Hell, Bob Geldof abused programmers at a big radio convention and it halted the Boomtown Rats’ career in America permanently. I’m not saying you’ve got to kiss butt. It’s just that you’ve got to appear rational. And you’ve got to be thankful. Which brings us to:
3. Show gratitude.
Thank the guy doing radio promotion, or maintaining your Website. Thank the guy who opens the door. People love to help, you’ve just got to pay them in attention. Sure, if you’re abused, go off on them. But if someone’s going out of their way to treat you nicely, to do a favor for you, let them know you’re appreciative. Labels have more than one act. And most successful managers do too. If you’re an ungrateful sonofabitch, they’ll focus their efforts on someone else.
4. Be willing to listen to advice.
You don’t need to take it, but certainly be willing to let the other person talk. Sure, the label might want to mold you improperly, scrub off all your rough edges, but the people working there have also been doing it for a long time and know stuff you don’t. Like what media outlets will promote. Who will take a chance on new music.
5. Be nice to your fans.
New paradigm acts don’t concentrate on radio or print. They go directly to their fans. A fan will do anything for you, he’ll not only put you up for the night, he’ll let you sleep with his sister. But you’ve got to talk to him, you’ve got to sign an autograph, you’ve got to remember the effort. Nothing thrills a fan more than having a famous person remember them. Not only do they tell the story to everybody they meet, they say how great you and your music are. This is good will you cannot buy, but it can be earned.
6. Overnight success is elusive.
Don’t moan when you don’t have instant success. As a matter of fact, those who triumph quickly tend to fade just as fast. If for no other reason than potential fans go on instant backlash. You have to earn the trust of the hardest core of fans. But once you’ve got it, they’ll never let go. Don’t we all have favorite acts that no one has ever heard of? Aren’t we still imploring people to listen to their records, even decades later? Sure, if you become monstrous, some hipsters will leave you. Then again, many will want to tell the tale of how they were there in the BEGINNING!
7. Fame is mindbending.
As Chris Blackwell puts it, "you go from a bum to a hero in a second, and you’ve got to be savvy enough to guide yourself through the maze."
Beware of having your prayers answered. Yesterday nobody knew you, today people you don’t know are writing terrible things about you all over the Net. It takes time to adjust to fame. Which is why it’s best if it comes slowly. So you can learn the ropes and cope.
8. Money isn’t everything.
Morris Levy might have ripped off Tommy James, but would Tommy James have been a hit on another label? Doubtful. Mr. James was Roulette’s only star at the time. Morris killed, maybe literally, for Tommy’s success. In other words, just because you’ve read Don Passman’s book and are an expert on the business, don’t think you don’t have to give up a bit to get not only a little, but a lot. There are very few job openings for rock star. Chances are you’re going to have to experience a few raw deals in order to make it. If you sustain, you can turn the tables and dictate on your terms as time goes on.
9. Be Reasonable
If you don’t know of a band which negotiated themselves right out of a deal by being too demanding, you don’t know any lawyers. No one needs your record to hit. You’ve got to earn your opportunity, you’ve got to build trust and maintain relationships.
10. Trust is key.
Involve yourself with people you trust, whose words you believe. Not only is it hard to extricate yourself from a bad deal, hell, Billy Joel paid Artie Ripp for years after making it, words are cheap and just because someone says they’re going to do something for you, that doesn’t mean they will.
11. Passion is everything.
In your music. In your team. In your fans.
People can’t manufacture passion. And human beings can sense hype and fake interest and belief a mile away. Hell, just go online and experience the trolls hyping acts so they can earn some b.s. reward from a band or a marketing company. We know when someone is testifying for real. In other words, even though your music might be great, you’re gonna be a nonstarter unless you can SELL your music. By that I mean going on stage and convincing people you’re great through your performance, and convincing those you come in contact with in the business that you’ll forgo everything to make it. You’ll sleep five to a room. You’ll dumpster dive. You’ll get ripped off, be underpaid. That’s the story of rock and roll. Instant stardom is a facade. Either the act has been working for years or is two-dimensional cardboard, the product of a svengali, and will fade as soon as their song leaves the radio.
It’s not only about the music.
In order to make it, you need a team. No one can do it alone.
And labels and managers and agents invest in people, not only music.