When asked to write an article about “the biz” (as The First Lady put it) I wondered what to focus on. There are a lot of things that could be talked about. In this first article, I want to focus on a positive rather than a negative. I’m going to talk about hard work. I could talk about venue closings all over the state. I could talk about the new sub-genres of “country” that are springing up. I could talk about the fading “scene.” I feel like those are all appropriate subjects (and we will probably get to those,) but I want to start out this new writing endeavor on a good foot.
Hard work is a beautiful thing. It evens the playing field. You don’t need money to work hard. You don’t need status to know what it takes to survive. Hard work isn’t reserved for age, race, or gender. In fact, hard work is often the one determinant that separates those who “make it,” despite other advantages. It’s not inherent. It’s not bred. It’s not anything you can buy. We are all given the chance to work hard. Whether we choose to is up to us.
In this business, whether it is performing, booking, promoting, radio, or other…hard work will be one of the biggest tools to success. This business is hard. It is often unrewarding. It is full of set-backs, heartaches, negative people, and depressing times. If you let it, the dark side of this business can consume you. You have to break through the rough times. If you know the value of a little hard work, then you understand that you might have to dig through some rough soil to get to the gold. Hard work will get you through some hard times. If you know this going in, it’s that much more rewarding coming out. Don’t get blindsided. This business will eat you alive if you let it. You will not walk out, or through, it unscathed. If you enter into any endeavor with the mindset of doing your best and doing what it takes, no matter the outcome, good things will come.
I know it seems silly to talk about working hard. It’s a no-brainer, right? I think so, but I see and hear many people making easily correctable mistakes, myself included. It’s easy to overlook things. It’s easy to take shortcuts. This all feeds into a strong work ethic. It’s the little things that often make a difference. I constantly have to remind myself that you can’t skip steps to success. For those people who say there is no formula for success in this business, they are correct. There is, however, one major coefficient. Outside of the parenthesis, multiplying everything you do must always be hard work. After all, this is your work. Take pride in it and how you got there!
Persevere. Nothing comes easy. It might take you a few tries before you get it. Always get back up. Seems pretty easy to write and tell others, huh? It’s harder to do.
When I first started out doing whatever it is that I do now, I had no connections. I knew a few bar owners and a lot of good artists. The only thing that made me want to keep going was knowing that these artists needed to be heard. It was hard to get that across to venues who had heard it all before. The walls were already built so high in front of me and I hadn’t even started. You have to chip away, brick by break. And guess what, there are more walls. Eventually, you do see some daylight. One venue turns into 3. One show turns into a series. It starts to happen, but it’s not overnight. Don’t let a little hard work block your view of where you want to be.
Even if you “make it” quickly in the music business, you need to be able to sustain it. At some point, there are going to be obstacles. There will be droughts. There are going to be some sort of hard times. You’re going to need to know how to make it out of a rut…or you’re going to find out real fast. Hard work doesn’t take a vacation during the successful years. At least, it shouldn’t. You need to keep that attitude that got you to the top. It worked for a reason. No matter what your status is, hard work is never a bad thing. It’s the best tool one can have.
Patience is a virtue. Patience is also a form of working hard. It takes patience to see the finish line in this business. Sometimes you can’t even see 2 inches in front of you. Patience can take a lot out of you. It can be draining. It wears you down emotionally and mentally. Nobody likes to wait around for something. In this day and age of instant gratification, we want results immediately.
Anybody who has tasted success will tell you that you have to have a little patience (cue the GNR, now!) It’s all a part of setting your sights and working towards a goal. If you know where you want to be, don’t let anything get in the way…even when you’re waiting to see what your next move will be.
Embrace hard work. Make it your best friend. I have a lot of people I look up to. At the top of that list is my dad. He has never run from rolling up his sleeves and getting a job done. In watching him, I also learned another valuable lesson. Nobody is going to do a job the same way you would do it. If it’s important to you, jump in there and get it done. Make sure it’s done to your specifications. Make sure it gets your mark of approval. You have to get in there and do the dirty work if you want the final result. It’s up to you. Don’t expect others to do things your way. Also, don’t criticize if you’re not doing the work.
***If you read nothing of this article, please read the following***
There are way too many people these days telling others how they should be doing things. The music they should play, the records they should make, the artwork, the venues, the booking, the production, the band…everyone has an opinion.
If you aren’t a contributing member to one of these areas of music production, don’t tell us how we should be doing it. Get in there and start making change. People will take notice and start listening when they see you getting it done. This is the one success I am starting to see take shape in my personal music endeavors. I’m on the front line getting things done. I’m fighting for independent artists and folks are starting to notice. Be the change you want to see happen. Others will follow. One of my personal mottos has always been “actions speak louder than words.” I believe it’s true. It also gets things done. Don’t be afraid to do the work. It may not always be easy, but it gets the job done. There is only one way to get a job done… do it!
I think it’s time for people to put up or shut up. There are lots of people talking about things they want to see happen, but then they don’t get out and help make these changes a reality. We could talk about artist support, live music attendance, venue closings, top 40 artists, independent artists, etc…but how many people are willing to make a difference. If you aren’t actively seeking change to a problem, but continually criticizing the problem, you are part of the problem. Get out and support the change you want to see happen. Start a business, join a fan club or street team, go to a show, order an album on iTunes, buy a CD, fund a kickstarter, start a band, write a song, learn some program software, help your favorite band get a show in your hometown, start a music series, host a house concert, introduce your friends to some new music, research new music, take a friend to a show, visit a new venue, donate to a charity, start a charity, or find your own way to directly contribute to solving whatever problem you see wrong with the music business. If you can’t do any of the above, then sit back, shut your mouth, and enjoy whatever happens. It’s that simple!
There are lots of us out there in the back of shows, behind computers, on the other end of the phone doing the work that nobody else wants to do. We welcome any extra sets of hands, ears, and legs that want to help. We have, however, heard more than our fair share on what’s wrong. We’re working hard to make it right. Join us or get out of the way! I won’t speak for anyone else, but I, personally, am done listening. Actions speak louder than words!
I’m not the end-all in the music business. I’m not even close. There are many other people doing what I am doing and enjoying more success. There are people who have been doing it longer. I am also not an accomplished writer. I’m just sharing some thoughts on what is going on and some observations as to what I see happening every day. I don’t know if these words will help anyone.
A little hard work never hurt anyone. In fact, it’s helped many. If you’re in the music business, it’s what makes all the difference. There are no shortcuts. If you are facing difficult times, if you have hit a wall, if you’ve been stuck in the mud…just remember to keep pushing through.
One day the wall will crack and you’ll see a little light. It gets easier, but you’re going to have to be willing to put in a little (maybe a lot of) hard work. Seems simple, and it is, but it’s something we all need to remember and practice.
Now quit reading and go make a change!