Maybe it’s because my mom was an educator or I grew up where my grandmother’s house was the spot in the community where people came to get encouraged or fed both literally and figuratively. But I really enjoy helping people and maybe it’s because I’ve been greatly blessed to have had the helping hand of others throughout life, specifically my career in the business of entertainment. I started out working with indie artists, still do and have witnessed their ups and downs, struggles and frustrations, all very similar to the challenges that women in the music industry face. It was that spirit that led me to write the e-book, The Indie Insider: 10 Key Facts From Music Industry Insiders. By paying attention to how up and coming artists communicate on social media and having conversations with label executives and industry colleagues, I became aware of a lot of fundamental principles that weren’t being practiced. Whether it was due to lack of awareness or just plain disregard, I felt the need to address the issue. With that said, it is my sincere hope that the following 5 tips can help guide you along a more productive path in your career, whether they serve as new news or gentle reminders. To quote Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “To know and not to do is really not to know.”
1. Cultivate A Likeable Personality.
Having a personality or rather being likeable is an important key to getting ahead in this industry, quite possibly more so than having talent alone. Artists should look at themselves as salesmen/saleswomen because in essence they are always selling something: an idea, music, merchandise but most importantly, they are selling themselves. It’s a proven theory that people prefer to do business with folks they like and trust, therefore cultivating a likeable personality will ultimately benefit you on your journey in this business. Having interviewed my fair share of both mainstream and independent artists over the years, whenever an artist was engaging, made eye contact, was funny without being silly and seemed to be present in the moment, those were the ones that made a lasting impression. They were the ones that I found myself looking for additional ways to help them reach their professional goals.
2. Go the Miracle Mile.
I had heard about going the “extra mile” when it comes to excelling in business and in life but it was a sermon I heard from Bishop Dale C. Bronner that introduced me to the “miracle mile.” That’s the mile you go after you’ve gone the “extra mile”; after you’ve done what you were supposed to do and then some. People usually quit when they don’t get traction after going the “extra mile” but it’s those who push a little harder, a little longer who get the reward or the miracle. I use this example in my book about the time DMX was a no-show for the second year in a row for his scheduled performance at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. As a result an emerging rapper named Nelly, who was originally scheduled for just the pre-show filled the slot, which was the catalyst that made him a household name. Nelly experienced the miracle mile. My good friend and music historian Shaheem Reid (who’s also featured in the book) summed up this point superbly. “You’ve got to have a tireless work ethic because it’s your name that people can trust. If you want mediocre results, you do mediocre work. If you want the best, if you think you deserve the best you have to do the best that you can do in every situation; and then you’ve got to push yourself even further.”
3. Make Sure Your Circle is Competent.
While having people who fill vital roles and support your movement is valuable, having no team is actually better than having a bad one. I think the misconception some artists have is that once they assemble a team, specifically lock in a manager, doors will magically begin to open. But that’s almost never the case. “If you’re as talented as you think you are, people will naturally gravitate towards you as someone that’s potentially going to be successful,” says AllHipHop’s Chuck Creekmur. “That happens through your talent, your charisma, your confidence and other intangibles that bring people to you. I think at that point it’s up to you to determine who goes where or if it’s worth it to bring them on your team.” At the end of the day, an artist’s success starts with his/her own desire to succeed. DJ Scream made the valid point in The Indie Insider that, “Your business is whatever your rap name is, that’s your business, that’s your brand. So you’re always in control of that.” If you stay consistent with keeping yourself involved in industry events, performing, being social on social media, your talent will resonate with someone who will want to help you.
4. Master the Art of Inches.
I always say that the only time success happens overnight is when you dream about it overnight. And if an artist does stumble upon a hit and blow up instantly, their career is usually short lived. To survive in the music business you need to have passion, purpose and patience. Passion is the foundation. It all starts with the hunger to go hard daily, which comes from the soul. That passion gives you purpose on your journey and purpose gives you the patience you will need to keep going no matter how long it takes or what you may endure. Understand that every move you make concerning your career counts: every performance, personal interaction, interview, meeting, studio session, post and tweet. Everything flows into everything else like the effect of tossing a small pebble into a still pond. The initial impact may be small but the ripple effect is so much greater. I recently wrote Hoodrich DJ, DJ Lil Keem’s bio and while transcribing our conversation, he made an interesting comment that made perfect sense. “I don’t worry about a lot of checks being cut to me because I’m getting checks from knowledge and picking up on the game. Every bad experience or small move I make puts me closer to the better and bigger situation I vision for myself. Everything I do adds meaning to my career.” One of the best pieces of advice I ever received when I got in the game was to start where I was, work with what I had and do as much as I could. You never know who’s paying attention to your movement. It may very well be someone who can help turn your inch into a yard.
5. You Must Believe in You.
I am late to Nipsey Hussle’s hustle, as I just got turned on to him last year with the whole $100 mixtape idea. But I caught up quick and learned that one of the main reasons he was able to execute such a bold marketing move was because Nipsey Hussle’s biggest fan is Nipsey Hussle. Like many artists before him, belief in self and your product (your music/creative work, skills) are key to being able to sustain against all the naysayers and the hard times that are guaranteed to come. I’ve also witnessed some artists who are great at what they do, but their manager or publicist has more faith in their abilities than they do. And it’s a losing battle when that happens; nobody wins. Don’t be cocky as in arrogant, but be confident as in “I will win.” Trust that the seed that was placed in your spirit to embark on a career in entertainment was planted there for a reason. It’s your job to water that seed and continuously tend to it until it reaps the harvest you desire.