What Could Be More Important Than Your Talent?

I gave a talk recently at a local music biz event and I was asked by the organizer during my conversation with him a few weeks prior to pick a subject that I thought would be immediately relevant for the people who would be forming the bulk of the audience–i.e., recording and performing artists and aspiring artists.

Well, there’s an awful lot that I could talk about (it could fill a book, which it will, by the way), but it didn’t take me more than a moment to decide on what it would be. Here’s a snippit for my blog readers. There’s a bit of tough love to follow here, so if you happen to be an artist or that’s your aim, please do take it personally.

This business is really all about relationships and I believe there is something more critical to the establishment and maintenance of productive, satisfying long-term industry relationships than even things like your current level of talent, how much money you have to spend or who you know. It’s called character–that mix of personal qualities that makes for who a person is and how they operate.

One of the elements of this mix is motivation. I’ve personally witnessed incredible performing talent wasted on people who have everything going for them except motivation. Success in this industry is not the realm of the hobbyist or the spoilt brat who thinks they are entitled. If it is a hobby for you, fine, but treat it that way and temper your expectations accordingly. The industry is not going to come knocking on your door and, if they did, they wouldn’t be staying very long.

But motivated for what? It has to be the music and connecting with the audience. Industry professionals know that if you are driven by the correct level and type of motivation there is a greater chance you will stay the course until success arrives.

The second element is attitude. It means being willing to listen to others. It means respecting not only your colleagues and associates but also your audience. It means believing strongly in yourself and your future, but it also means leaving your ego at the door when appropriate. Industry professionals look for artists who are grounded in the right ingredients. Impulsiveness, unfocused energy, fickleness, short attention span, disrespectfulness, unreliability, arrogance and other such deleterious traits are not qualities that will endear you to them.

The third element is commitment. For the artist aspiring to a full-time performing/recording career, the flip side to the rapture associated with that dream is that everything else has to come second–your girl/boyfriend, family, hobbies, academic pursuits, or whatever. Not that you can’t have any of that, you can. But tours, rehearsals, training, meetings, administrative work, promotion and marketing, coming up with the cash, and everything else entailed in building a career are incredibly demanding and will relegate, for a few years at least, things like starting a family and working in Africa for CUSO to an unfulfilled wish list.

If you can’t wrap your brain around devoting most of your waking hours to your career, making the required financial investment, continually upgrading your skills through training and learning as much as you can about the music business, then maybe you should consider lowering your sites or changing your focus. There is a wealth of different types of opportunities in this business and lots of different definitions of success. It certainly doesn’t always have to equate with stardom. Regardless, if an artist isn’t willing to commit to acting responsibly within every industry relationship they have, there isn’t much of a long-term future for them in this business no matter what industry niche they pursue.

There you have it. For someone with lofty goals as a recording/performing artist, input like this might just be what they need to hear at this point in their career pursuit.

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