This will be a 2 part series that will focus on common shortcuts and pitfalls we see unsigned artists take and how to avoid them.
Not Having a Budget
Yes, lets talk about that big elephant in the room, you see it? The big grey animal dancing around the room in a pink tutu that you are ignoring? Yeah that one. All artists should have an amount of money that is dedicated to their dream (the budget) to pay for what they want and need.
I Need To Work With People Who Believe In Me
What this is for Producers like us is unsigned artist code for “I want someone else to pay for my dream”. For some reason a new crew of unsigned artists have come to believe that someone must believe in them and their vision enough to work for free to make their dream a reality. Here is a news flash, Life is not free. Someone else does not have to believe in your dream. YOU DO! It is your dream and if you truly want it to be a reality then you will fund it to pay for what you need to make it come true.
One of the first things we hear from upcoming artists is that they are “producing” their own music and or themselves. This is great if you know what you are doing. If not, big mistake. Most will tell us it’s because they can’t find anyone that can create the sound they are looking for so they decided to do it themselves. The problem, is that it is less being able to find someone with the “Hotness” they seek, but more the willingness to pay for what they want. This is a major deterrence. To really make your music be the best it can be you need to have someone who is objective and has the talent to hear the potential of the music and the artist beyond where the artist can usually see themselves. The producer’s main function is to take the artist’s ideas and make them come to fruition without loosing the artist in the process. It is a crucial symbiotic relationship and when an artist finds the right producers they will get what they are looking for. Can you take a shortcut and think that the engineer where you record will tell you it was a good take or not? The question isn’t can you but should you. Would it be the best way to immortalize your music, the representation of your dream?
Blowing Money on the Superstar Artist Starter Kit
Spending your money to LOOK like an Artist when you don’t even have what you need to BE an artist is asinine. Most unsigned artists that we come across have their Superstar Artist Starter Kit in order. You know, the watch, jewelry, belt, shoes, hair, makeup etc.. Everything that has nothing to do with the music. In fact they have no music, no promo pics, no website no budget. Why? Because they blew it to LOOK the part. If they instead took that money and put it in the budget and not in their Starter Kit, they would have pretty decent music and all the other tools to be taken seriously in this industry and this section of this article wouldn’t apply. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
Building “Teams” That Have No Clue
Do you need a support team? Sure. But the problem is when no one on the team has a clue of what to do, no contacts or any idea of how to direct your dream. What you have then are groupies. You need people on the team that know what to do. And these people are called professionals. There is a reason why the major artists you look up to have writing teams, composers, producers, etc… They are needed. If everyone is in their lane doing their job, it makes the job of the artist easier. The universal fact is that everyone in the food chain has to eat (be paid), for what they are doing. They can’t bank their lives on the hope of your success.
There is not a single artist out there that doesn’t have a strong support team. Your strongest supporter has to be you. Everyone on the team is watching you. If you have doubts, they have doubts. The only thing different is that they will find a new artist to work with.
Believing Your own Hype
Its one thing for you to be confidant. That’s fine. You SHOULD be confidant. Where we see a lot of Artists get into trouble is when they start to believe the good press they get and the accolades from friends and family. They start to believe they are much more than they are and that they KNOW much more than they do. This is an all too common pitfall. They get a sense of arrival when they have only just gotten to the starting gate. Humility goes a long way. If you are good it will show and you will be recognized for it. We know its not a popular stance with this new narcissistic glory hound culture of social media, but in the long run an artist is all the better for it.
Not Able To Take Constructive Criticism
Many artists dismiss constructive criticism. As an Artist you are going to hear various forms of “NO” more than you want to realize. If you are astute, you will take all those “NOs” and use them to your advantage. There is a difference between someone tearing down your dream and someone giving you an honest critique. Everyone isn’t “hating”. Sometimes the criticism is very direct and not sugar coated. You have to make the distinction between the two.
Not Being Objective
Lets face it everything you do as an artist is NOT going to be great. Although confidence goes a long way, thinking everything you do is wonderful and ready for prime time is not. Be honest with yourself and only represent yourself as an artist with work that can stand on its own. We always tell Artists- if you have to “explain” your music then its not ready. You don’t need to have excuses as to why the sound dropped out or the vocals suddenly got louder, if it works cohesively it will take the listener on the journey by itself and will need no explanation from you.
These misconceptions and shortcuts give you many places to fail sooner or later. As an artist, prepare yourself for a war not a short battle. Although a battle can be won or lost in a matter of minutes, a war will be much longer and harder to win.
Plan well, set realistic goals with realistic budgets to reach them. Your superstardom is not going to happen with $200. Be real with yourself. Don’t think you have all the answers. There are many who have been in this industry for years that still don’t have all of the answers.
Remember to join us next week for Part 2 of Pitfalls and Shortcuts!
Written by Kimo Kaulani & Geri King for Audio Blueprint