Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Clarification on y'day's blog. Advice to young artists.

I'm not depressed. Quite the contrary, I've never been happier. The reference to "Depression" yesterday was a reference to the country as a whole, and how people pull themselves out of the tough financial times with creativity and the help of friends. For example, when people are forced into "self"-employment, they often discover their inner inventor or entrepreneur out of the struggle to survive. That's what I find so exciting: we must find never-before-done methods and be innovative.

So thank you for all the "chin up" emails, but I'm definitely not complaining about my current state. It's a beautiful place to be -- self-sufficient artistically, but with opportunities all around to do more .

I'm also going to combine this with another blog I've been meaning to write. I get messages ALL the time from young artists asking for advice.

Two seemingly simple things come to mind:


1) Learn your art. Practice. Be good. Don't suck. It seems obvious, right? But your art needs to be great before you can go around promoting yourself to others. Think of how many people are doing the same thing you are doing. You need to be the best you can be.

2) Learn the business yourself. Don't let someone sweep in and take over your career before you've had time to learn the ropes. It's amazing to me how many of you assume I'm on a label. I was, briefly, but never released a record there. You must realize how much you can accomplish on your own BEFORE you start signing dotted lines.
That said, I am NOT against labels at all, and I might very well sign another deal. But I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have done everything yourself at some point in your career. You need to understand what the people DO who end up working for you. YOU care more about your success than any label ever will, and whether or not you have a record deal, you will always be your own best champion. Aside from that, labels want an artist who is able to talk business and do things for themselves. They just don't have the staff or capacity to do it all themselves anymore.
Before you go telling me that I've had people doing things for me, let me tell you how my three biggest accomplishments to date happened ... questions I get asked ALL the time:
-The Dreidel video? I shot it myself on a crappy MiniDV recorder and edited it on iMovie and threw it on my YouTube channel. No, it doesn't look fancy, but it caught on and a lot of people watched it.
-How did I get on NPR? I sent them a CD. Myself. Not from some publicist or manager. From me.
-How did I play with Elvis Costello? I asked him.

Believe me, I know a lot of it is luck. But you have to be ready to jump when luck finds you. And if it doesn't find you, at least you have the tools and know-how to truck on and do your art, and it won't matter if anyone else is paying attention. Please, if you want to be in this business for the fame and glory, quit now, and leave room for the folks who MUST make art and will continue to do so whether they're dining in a private restaurant in Manhattan or eating ramen cooked on a hot plate. I've done both, and they're both delicious as long as I'm happy. Which I am.

Thank you so so so much for the great emails I got on yesterday's blog, and let me promise to you that there's no way I'm leaving this business. I've got loads of new songs, and I will record and I will tour whether there's money or not.

Now ... off to practice what I preached. Practicing the piano and sending some follow-up emails to venues in England for a tour next year.

1 comment:

  1. Just watched The Dreidel video for the first time. AWESOME. Love it.

    Such good advice here. I especially like the part when you say you got on NPR and to play with Elvis Costello by sending your work and asking. Aspiring food writers ask me all the time these same types of questions but few ever considered writing a sample restaurant review or starting a blog to show their work. I became a Serious Eats contributor by sending the an "ask us" form e-mail through the site. If you throw a lot of sh*t against the wall,and you're talented, some will stick, as they say. Even as someone a little more established in my field than the people you are probably talking to here, I'm inspired by your example and advice! Can't wait to hear the new tunes.

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