Historically in the music business the artists that breakthrough go all in on themselves. You almost have no choice but to go all in and risk it all. Do it while you’re young and you’ve got get back if things don’t work out. Do it with an open mind and you may find a sustainable path that might not have been your first choice. For example, I know a fantastic MC that had a record deal for a minute but it didn’t work out. Making the most of a bad situation he’s become quite a hook doctor. Writing in collaboration with some of today’s hottest Hip-Hop artists to help them take those hooks to the next level.
Betting on yourself is not throwing all of your responsibilities out the window but learning how to manage your obligations while doing a lot of traveling and crappy shows. The money doesn’t come for a quite a while, you have to find and cultivate a fan base which takes time and repetition. Folks gotta see you a couple times and you have to have your show tight, to get the fans to invest any time or energy.
Before you tell me that you’ve been doing that for years you should know that geography matters. Meaning, if you’ve been circling your hometown playing all the local dive bars you haven’t even begun. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. Every city I go to, with a couple exceptions, the local artist community tells me how the local scene is nonexistent or completely messed up. Bullshit! Every local city has the same problem, the same 12 acts trying to play the same bars every weekend.
You have to push yourself to get out of your comfort zone. It’s the only way you get better and it’s the only way to engage new fans. They have to see you. And your local city needs to see you leave and represent. You have to give the fans something to believe in. You have to experience all that the road has to offer, the good and the bad.
Easier said than done, I know. But the fact is that there’s a new act that takes that chance every day. Los Angeles is full of them. I don’t particularly recommend swinging for the fences right out of the gate. Build something and get better. You have to take your dream and understand how to make it an investable endeavor. That means you don’t have to have the most numbers on social media but the fans you do have must be engaged. Similarly, you don’t have to have the most plays, you need a body of work that shows progress from the artists’ side and the fan side.
Start in the next county over and work your way out from there. The fans and the engagement will lead you to some money. It won’t be a lot but if you’re savvy you will quickly learn how to scale what gave you that momentum and progress. There’s no easy way, there’s no shortcut, you have to get out and play, a lot. Don’t let your motivation be a label deal, your motivation should be a sustainable career. If you even start building towards that opportunities will present themselves and you never know where you might end up.
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