The first steps on a musician’s road to artist development are some of the most exciting, important and difficult ones. Career dreams are often stifled on this trek but every once in a rare while—actualized. If you are about to take your first trip down the artist development path, be sure you are signed on for the hard work, dedication and time it takes to just get to the first turn. Talent, luck and financial funding aside, it takes a wise and tenacious person to survive this ride.
So set your travel expectations to “realistic.” Below are a few directions to help manage your route complete with some wise words to keep you company on the journey from the late great country Music Hall Of Fame inductee, Cowboy Jack Clement. Clement worked with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Don Williams, U2 and many more, so there’s great wisdom behind his humor. His final album which helped inspire me to get these quotes is expected later this Spring.
“Even an air conditioner has to warm up before it can be cool.” –Clement
Club touring and first single radio tours can create major changes in your lifestyle, enthusiasm and sleep patterns. Think about how this may affect your family as major lifestyle transitions can create collateral damage. No matter how much drive and passion you bring to the table on week one, do a reality check often to make sure this is still a good life road map for you.
“I’m behind because I’m catching up” -Clement
Expect your income level to drop during the early development stages when you sign with a label that is going to work one of your singles at radio. Even if you are already making a living as a touring act, studio musician, songwriter, etc., you will be busy recording, creating branding tools, traveling on radio tours and bustling about with all the necessary prep work for your release.
“There is a big difference between being smooth and being slick. Smooth is cool. Slick is like shit.” -Clement
Brush up on your conversation and people skills. You will be attending lots of industry and radio sponsored functions. It’s always best to have a label rep or manager accompany you, but if that’s not possible it will be up to you to properly work the room, introduce yourself and engage. To properly stand out in the crowd, look your best, be well groomed and dress like a star.
“Never blow into a dusty bowl.” -Clement
You will frequently run into other developing acts on the road. Always refrain from speaking ill of other artists no matter your personal opinion. More than likely it will get back to them and you don’t want to scar what can be an advantageous professional relationship down the road. If you are asked your opinion on a difficult artist or situation, take the high road and find a way to turn it around into a positive reply.
“He lies a lot, but at least he’s honest about it” –Clement
If you are not sharing your journey’s experiences with fans on your social sites, good lord, start immediately. Yes, good Internet connections on the road are hard to find, but don’t let that stop you. Find a way, or hire someone to help. Communicate often, respond to fan posts and include photos or videos whenever possible. Remember, quality trumps quantity. Your early career steps are the most critical time to cultivate your brand.
Being a recording artist is a hard job—especially in the beginning. But keep your creative integrity, sanity and successfully power through with a finely tuned attitude. Then you’ll be ready to continue down this road with all of its twists and turns as a sustainable artist. Make sure you want to enjoy the unique view it offers. Cowboy Jack Clement sums it up best, “We are in the fun business. If we’re not having fun, we’re not doing our job.” So get out there and have some fun!