As an artist, 2016 was very good to me; I was able to perform at 3 music festivals, shoot 2 music videos and record an EP to be released later this year. I also became the co-host of a radio show that goes live twice a week and got some funding for projects in the new year. Of course with all of those ups there have also been some downs, those being rejection from sought after opportunities, being put on wait lists and meeting fake people who just let you down. After going through these experiences I felt it necessary to share some tips on getting the most out of opportunities as an artist and when to leave an opportunity or even some people behind.
Here are some tips on success for the new year:
1. Take every opportunity that comes your way
As a local artist it is very hard to come by the opportunities that you want, that’s why it’s important to take everyone that comes your way at first. It would be nice to get paid for everything you do, but some opportunities are good for the resume and you just have to take the “L” as some would say. In fact, a good opportunity with great exposure (like a radio interview, a blog article or a performance) is never an L as it helps you to get your name out there. I’d say that you’ll be looking at a lot of these opportunities for the first 2 years of your artistic journey, of course there are exceptions to the rule but be prepared to establish yourself before anyone is willing to give you any funds.
2. Stay away from toxic people
We all have some not so great people in our lives no matter what we do, but with music it’s quite typical to get a whole lot of naysayers. Starting a small business is always a risk and is always hard work, but because of the dreaded “starving artist” stereotype people are so much harder on musicians. I’m not saying that you should get rid of everyone who criticizes you, but just make sure that their criticisms are actually valid; if they can say that you need to work on your flow in the second verse instead of just “you suck” then I would say that you should keep them around. Get rid of the people who won’t come to any one of your shows/events/gigs (even if it’s free), who won’t show up for your music videos, share your links, like your videos, subscribe to your channel or try to talk you out of your musical passion. It’s hard enough trying to find your place in such a large industry so definitely shake off any and all haters. *I also classify artists who are all take and no give as negative people. If you know any artists who constantly want your hard work and resources without sharing any of theirs then cut them off quick!*
3. Hang out with other artists and positive people
This point is pretty self explanatory; hang out with other artists because they know exactly what you’re going through! Your friends and family are great resources when you need to just vent out all of your frustrations, but if they don’t have knowledge of the industry then they can’t really help you decide on what you need to do like another artist can. Being around other artists also offers you the chance to shadow someone who may be a little more experienced and learn from their mistakes and successes. Another artist who is also your friend can help you prepare for gigs, events or even pass long information to you about upcoming shows you can be a part of. Having a good network of artists makes it easier to find collaborators, share resources and maybe even split studio costs. It’s also never a bad thing to have a little healthy competition.
4. Put a time limit on things
There is so much to navigate as a new artist and it can all be pretty overwhelming, the best way to overcome this is to get organized and put a time limit on things you want to get done.
Much like setting goals this makes you responsible and accountable for things that don’t work out. I also want to point out that you can put a time limit on people and opportunities as well. There are so many people out there who promise you the world and with that comes many fakes and scammers! If someone wants to mentor you, manage you or book you for events give them three months to make something happen, if nothing does then move on - you have the right to. As for opportunities like I said before, take all that you can but with that being said if there are sketchy details, bad communication and overall confusion then let it go. Getting ready for an event is stressful enough on you as an artist, you don’t need to worry about the hundreds of things that can go wrong with a sketchy promoter or company.
5. Get your own information
Personally I really don’t care for artists who have 3 months under their belt and want to complain about being paid, working with top tier collaborators and only going to an event if they have a ride and other nonsense. As an independent artist you are an independent business, a sole-proprietor at first so it’s your job to make sure that everything is kosher. Ask someone else for help once you have done all your google research, the amount of information/opportunities that can be found by typing in “submit your music” is actually unbelievable! Being an artist is competitive so don’t expect anyone to be willing to help you out and provide you with the information you need. Invest in yourself by buying a couple books about the industry, doing informational interviews with radio hosts, other artists, producers and other creatives to get the right answers for yourself.
6. Create your own opportunities
Depending on your city there may be some nepotism and only certain artists with a certain sound may be getting heard. Maybe you’ve tried to get on some shows or have your music played and you’ve been met with defeat. When these things happen I say you should try again at least once and if you’re still unsuccessful then you have to come up with your own thing! It’s important to be versatile these days so as an artist consider picking up another skill in the entertainment industry that you can also gain recognition for whether that be songwriting, producing, engineering, modeling, graphic designing, etc. As you work on this skill and your artistry you will be able to network with other professionals and artists and create all sorts of new and helpful relationships. * Done correctly this can work out great, but please don’t take on too much and be a jack of all trades, master of none. Wearing too many different hats can really cloud your vision and have you focusing more on the projects of others instead of your personal journey. *
7. Set goals
This step really goes without saying, in order to achieve success you must set goals. Fail to plan, plan to fail! Goal setting can be as simple or as detailed as you need it to be, it really depends on the type of person you are. If you don’t need to much structure simply write out all the things you have planned for a year and add in some of the things you would like to do. Writing it down and comparing it to what you’ve already planned gives you an idea of how much more work you need to do and will force you to think of ways to make it happen. If you are like myself and need to get down to the nitty gritty then take up the SMART goals model which will help you really carve things out. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time Based. Using that model, if you want to create a 4 song EP within the year you would break it down like this:
S- Create an EP next year
M- 4 songs is the desired outcome
A- I can do this by buying beats, scheduling writing sessions, practicing, then buying studio time
R- Based on my savings and the income from my job I can afford this, I have a set schedule so I have plenty of writing time
T- I would like to finish in 6 months, i.e. Late June
It’s that easy to set goals, but less easy to actually achieve them; however I’m sure that most artists know this. Artistry is a tough road but it is definitely possible to be successful in the music and entertainment industries. Definitely decide what your definition of success is, whether it’s going on tour with a major artist, going platinum or selling a song to Rihanna. Whatever you decide it’s your journey and once you’ve achieved your idea of success no one can take that away from you! Keep working hard and remember what Future said in Where Ya At, “The reason I’m here today is because I never gave up!”