“Don’t Call Yourself An Icon” and Other Tips For Indie Artists
As you manage your indie career (for now), there are some behaviors you need to check, otherwise nobody will want to work with you, you’ll keep getting duped, and your expectations will leave you disappointed. From discussing observations and gripes with other industry professionals, I decided to lay out some simple attitude and character checks, so that your journey as a conscious artist won’t be in vain.
Save the Drama For Your Mama
Negative experiences are to be had working in any industry, and entertainment is no exception. As you meet and work with others, you will hear stories of backstabbing and competition from people who disguise those remarks as friendly warnings to you. I’ve found that the best thing to do is to be polite, do your best to stay away from it, focus on your craft, and by all means, don’t repeat the process.
Also, unless it is a part of your persona, leave your personal expletive rants off of social media when you’re connected with industry professionals. Revealing that ugly side to us will make writing about or promoting your work feel like we’re committing perjury. Negative talk could make us feel a little cautious about the subject person or company. But even more, it will tell us about the kind of person you really are.
Keep It Professional
We all feel a natural high when we’re in the midst of artists and creative activity. It’s easy to blur the lines of fun, your personal life and professionalism, especially when you begin your journey in entertainment. The result? Missed opportunities, disappointments, and being taken less seriously by some.
My advice? Be on your best game, don’t party too hard, don’t get too personal during chance meetings, and always have a point person to connect with at every event. Rather than hang out with groupies or light a spliff with the band, keep it professional and connect with someone from the business side, whether it’s another band’s manager, the sound engineer, the venue owner, a sponsor, even the photographer. Get out into the crowd and promote yourself and your brand. You need to get beyond the artistry and deal with the business until you can hire someone to do it for you.
Always Have An Agenda
I can’t tell you how many times artists and industry professionals have contacted me for no apparent business reason. I’ve received informal texts and calls past decent hours, and requests to meet up without goals disclosed. During some meetings I agreed to go to, no business was accomplished, and sometimes I felt like I was tricked into going on pseudo dates. Unless the person is Erykah Badu or the Dalai Lama, I’m not trying to connect with anyone on a deeper level. So, I vowed to never meet with anyone again, regardless of their status in the industry, unless they or I had a stated agenda in mind at the very least.
My point is that we’re all trying to make a mark in this industry, and we’re all juggling multiple projects. You must know when to draw the line, and make sure that others are as respectful and as mindful of your time as you are with theirs. So, state what it is that you hope to accomplish when you connect with others in the industry and when you request a meeting. Expect others to do the same for you, and learn to steer the conversation in the proposed direction if you find it straying from your artistic goals.
Don’t Call Yourself An “Icon”
You would think that independent artists were humble by nature. At least, I was naïve to think so way back when. I’ve encountered many genuine people, but I’ve also been awakened by the nauseating egos that lurk around creative industries. Check this out: Several years ago, I met up with a local musician who wanted to hire me for his project. Minutes into the meeting, the introductory conversation turned comical when he said, “You haven’t heard of me? Well, I’m kind of an icon.” (Cue the crickets)
That kind of ish has no place in indie artistry, regardless of how long you’ve been staying afloat in the local industry. It’s a turnoff, and if your work doesn’t match your bold statement, we’re done. Wrong address. Needless to say, that statement was a precursor of the douchey mentality of that artist, and the rest of the time spent on that particular project felt like an uncomfortable chore and I couldn’t wait to be finished with it.
Look, we’re all creatives in our own right, and we tap into energy and inspiration to accomplish feats. As an indie artist, you most likely won’t be able to hire Benny Medina-level professionals, but you will find smart, savvy, and hard-working people who are driven by passion to help with your endeavors. There is nothing that feeds our passion more than to work with a unique, serious and talented artist who is above all things, down to earth. So please, check your ego at the door.
Forget About “Plan B”
You’ll wonder from time to time whether you should move on and get a “real job”. You may have a second, more stable career in mind as a backup plan. It’s annoying to come across talented artists who settle for mediocre lives when they can literally make a change through their artistry. Please don’t be like them, because your message needs to be heard. The only way you won’t succeed is by quitting.
Being an artist is not an easy path to pursue, but you have to keep at it. I’m an advocate for keeping your “bridge job” to stay afloat while you chase your dreams. Just remember: when you decide to go for it, trust that your dedication, talent, flexibility, and smarts will get you to an amazing place in in your chosen industry, and closer to realizing your artistic dreams.