The old adage about being the big fish in the little pond is probably the most accurate way to describe the transition from local or regional fame to national or world prominence. Much like a high-school star in sport moves to the college level and likely spends their freshman year just learning versus playing, music artists have a tough time understanding how to transition from local hero to a very difficult industry.
Having transitioned myself from managing one artist, my son Spencer Kane, to now managing six, it has taught me a great deal about the mindset and expectations of talented emerging artists. As such, I felt this blog would serve as a teaching moment for anyone trying to break down the barrier of being discovered by the masses and actually earning income from their passion. The only way to do this quickly is to share the lies artists try to convince themselves in order to stay motivated. Lies may be a harsh term, but appropriate at this point.
1. NAME DROPPING
Yes, the music business, like most, is all about networking and who knows who. But when you are just getting started, it’s very unwise to rely on knowing or telling others about so-and-so thinks I’m special or says I have what it takes. This is such a delicate line to balance. Every emerging artist needs encouragement and when it comes from experienced and reputable people within the industry, that can be the boost needed to really focus or the accolade that is used to assume you’ve somewhat arrived. Your talent may be factual, but your experience and track record are not found in the praise of an industry person when you’re getting started. While they mean well to encourage you, it should not be the thing that you use to convince yourself you’re really close to your goal.
2. MY SOCIAL MEDIA IS HUGE
The deception with this theory that social media represents success or arrival is that it doesn’t always equate to monetary income. Simply, unless you convert followers to buyers, social media is mostly about keeping potential and real fans up to date on what you’re doing. The myth about social media, including sites like Youtube(R) is that views, comments, likes, or whatever the platform calls it, do not necessarily equal industry acceptance by professionals at major venues or labels. It is more of a gauge of exposure potential. Social media should be a factor in your marketing plan, but it does not represent your success.
3. I’M OBVIOUSLY MORE TALENTED
This one seems obviously a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how emerging artists talk backstage about the other artists appearing or getting a better billing, performance slot, or fan response. It’s usually a swarm of patronizing one another to see who can out compliment the next one. But when it comes to observing artists hit a down period in their journey, many times it’s the reconciliation of why their talent isn’t just pushing them through. Even family and friends of the artist can get in that lie. It’s only a lie when you believe your talent is better than an industry peer. Instead, it can be a myriad of reasons why someone else is gaining traction. Maybe they work harder. Maybe their genre is currently hot and fans dig it. Maybe they have a story that goes with their image that fans can relate to. It isn’t always the raw talent that makes an artist have a breakthrough.
4. IF I ONLY HAD MORE MONEY
Sure. Having finances WILL help, but it’s not always the lack of resources and money that prohibit success. I’ve met many artists who have the finances, resources, and support team to help, but the artist isn’t original. They aren’t creating anything new or interesting. Their attitude, at times, prevents them from opportunities because they do have the way to buy themselves stage time, radio time, and promotion. But in today’s market of fans, often the personal character of an artist is worth far more than their resources. Sometimes the underdog gets the breaks before the one who has the assets to get them.
5. MY MUSIC IS COMPLETELY UNIQUE or IS JUST LIKE SO-AND-SO
Whether you’re anti-trend or a bandwagoner, whichever you most relate to creatively, just because you may have invented a new sound or genre doesn’t mean the market is ready commercially for it. This is a huge lie an artist can believe because their music may very well be unique and creative, but not have a commercial audience, hence, no potential revenue right now. Conversely, many artists strive to be so similar to what is currently popular, they forget that the market already has one of those artists. So unless you are a cover band, you should probably not bank on making huge endroads trying to sound like someone else.
While there certainly is a lot more to discuss on the deception artists buy into, these five areas are the most common that I need to help them realign their expectations. While the Book of Solomon states that there is nothing new under the sun, an author can claim to use the same 26 letters and create something never read or understood before. A good strategy when building your career is to establish bench marks that you should achieve by certain dates. Let those marks build your success, not the daily hype or criticism that can so easily cheat us into believing we’re arriving or we should just quit.