You must begin by being realistic of your talents and goals. This is not to say that you may not have the talent, but being pragmatic and honest about if you truly have the drive, the desire, dedication and funding to do what you want. Will you do what you have to do to pay for any equipment, lessons, rehearsal space, travel, and professional services you will invariably need along the way? You need to have a plan of action to make what you want work within the scope of your life. You need to know that you may not be a rock star 3 months or even 3 years from now. The reality may be that you will have to keep your day job until you make enough money with your music career to support yourself or a true opportunity comes along that allows you to quit your job. Will you recognize this true opportunity? Or will you deceive yourself into thinking there is one because it seems easier? There is a price for everything. I always tell people that free is the most expensive price to pay. Why do I tell people that? Because HOW you end up paying is rarely equal to what you get. Its usually more than you were willing to sacrifice. There is no “stepping out on faith” without a plan. So be realistic with yourself and remember that nothing happens when you think it will, and its all harder than you think it will be.
Creating a Budget
Do what you can within your means. Know and understand that you WILL spend money to make your dream happen. Either your’s or someone else’s. Not many people are going to help you on spec. Musicians or composers that you find may not be into collaborating with you for no compensation. And I don’t mean “the back end”. Those that have been in this business long enough know that nothing anyone wants comes out “the back end”. It is better to create a budget for things you will need rather than waste valuable time trying to figure it out on your own and end up with something that does not represent you as an artist. Let people that are professionals do what they do. This means NOT using friends and family that know less than you do to perform a service because it was cheap or free. Suck it up and spend the money to make your product look and sound like it can stand on its own and go head to head with anything on from a major or major independent label. We believe that just because you are independent or unsigned does not mean that your materials should look and sound inferior in quality to anything you would find on a major or major independent label. There are a host of professionals that have worked with major artists and projects who will also be willing to work with you. But first you need to have the resources for it because the first thing they will ask is “What is your budget?”.
Although it seems like anyone can become an instant celebrity in this day and age of instant celebrity it’s only smoke and mirrors. The road to success is a struggle. It is hard, and it can be a drain on your spirit. Progress doesn’t always show immediately. It could take 6 months, 6 years or a decade. Those that live their dreams only do so because they held on to them in spite of all the obstacles. That is the only way. Talent, practice and sacrifice mean nothing if you give up on yourself. You must have a relentless belief. Do not be blind to criticism, not all of it is to tear you down. “Haters” may hate but many times you can use obstacles to your advantage to improve. Overcoming obstacles makes you more resilient and that much wiser and more confidant to take on other challenges.
Practice and Rehearse
You would think this is a given but from our experience many new artists we know do not practice and rehearse. You have to learn the skills for whatever you want to do. There is no faking it. Talent gets you a long way but when you really know your craft people take notice. We have seen bands get together to “rehearse” but all they do is sit in their rehearsal space to drink, smoke and socialize. Then they make some noise and think they rehearsed. The notes are still bad and they are not cohesive with the song or themselves. When it is time to record, they spend hours in the studio learning what they should have known before they got there. Practice constantly and challenge yourself, your band or your group. Never EVER think you are so great at what you do that there is nothing to learn, or no area you can improve on. There is nothing more pitiful than an Artist, who in their mind is a legend, but in reality is marginally mediocre bordering on awful and not willing to take constructive criticism.
Knowing the Sacrifice
Putting in hours at the studio and writing, rehearsing or dancing are not sacrifices. Those are givens. That is what you MUST do. You don’t get any better at anything if you don’t practice. Sacrifice is doing those things and more in spite of your circumstances and situation. Sacrifice is not going to the club on Friday night or having beers with the guys so that you have that much more time and money to put into your dream. Sacrifice is working extra hours or taking on an additional job to fund your dream. It is not up to anyone who’s services you use to take on the financial burden of YOUR dream.
Know What You Want
When we start working with anyone we ask what do they want. We have heard it again and again, “I want to be bigger than (insert mega-star’s name here)” or “I want to be a superstar.” Those are not sufficient answers. It’s great and all but this is much to broad or vague depending on your perspective. We are producers so our focus is much more narrow than your career as a whole. What we offer is a catalyst but first we need to know what you expect from us? You need to be able to verbalize it. At least know what it is that you do not want. If you cannot verbalize it to yourself then you cannot explain it to someone else and make it happen. If you have no idea of what you are looking for or what you want you need to think about it before moving forward. You need to think big and then dial it back so you can see the steps to get you there. You first have to recognize that you have to reach several smaller goals to reach the big goal (of being a superstar). The idea is that the small goals are going in the direction you want. Your dream is not going to happen all at once, and you need to be cognizant of what is taking you closer or further from your goals. Keeping a record of milestones will help you stay on track and well as being a great moral boost for when the journey gets tough.
Beware of Who Represents You
Nothing is wrong with having someone represent you, to speak for you to secure opportunities. The problem is when you have the wrong people representing you. Make sure this person not only has your best interests at heart, but that they have skills necessary to represent you and get you in the door. It does you no good if they have no clue or drive to do what it is that you need. Its okay to work with someone who may not have the connections, but they are the kind of person that will make things happen and this is what they want to do. You also need to make sure that they have the right personality and one that you feel comfortable representing you. We have seen many situations where a manager just seems to rub people the wrong way. How does this effect the Artist you ask? People you want to get to will chose not to deal with the manager and in turn not deal with the Artist.
Never overstate how well you know someone. If you only know someone’s name or heard of them but never met them do not tell people you did. If you met them in passing do not lead people to believe you are BFFs. There is a difference in knowing OF someone and KNOWING someone. You don’t know who knows who, so make sure you are not putting yourself in a situation to be embarrassed and thought of as a liar. We have seen several situations where someone was called out about supposedly knowing someone they said they knew. That is a quick way to get people to not deal with you. This industry is already full of shady unscrupulous characters, so do the industry and yourself a favor and don’t become one.
Using Names for Introduction- Be Careful Whose Name You Use
I will never forget a valuable lesson I learned early on. That lesson was to be careful of whose name you use and to whom. Turns out a name I used for an introduction was of someone who grossly overstated their relationship with this person and whom this person could not stand. The only reason I got a pass was because I was new and they felt sorry for me. They told me this valuable piece of advice- be careful whose name I use. You never know what terms people are on with each other, and in the music industry, as with any other, people often overstate how well they really know someone. In my case the person who’s name I used overstated their relationship and made it seem as though they had carte blanche and his name was the golden ticket to open the door. Nothing could have been further from the truth and it was embarrassing but a well learned lesson.
There are so many ways that you can find your path to success derailed. We at Audio Blueprint hope that you heed these pitfalls and shortcuts and live the life you dream. Much success to you!
Written by Geri King for Audio Blueprint