By Justin Gray (Every Nation Music Director)
“I want to be a recording artist.”
I hear this phrase roughly every few weeks from someone with professional aspirations to become one of the chart-topping, Grammy-laden, musical elite. Singers, songwriters, producers, and musicians all express a deep desire to fulfill their dreams of making their mark on the global music landscape.
After much personal reflection and countless meetings with music business consultants, I thought I’d pass on some helpful insights that may bring perspective to someone who considers becoming a “recording artist.”
In this blog post, I want to address three key statements that I hear in conversations about this topic.
Statement #1: “Someday I’ll be discovered”
Technology has significantly impacted artist and song discovery in the modern music space. Once upon a time A&R (artist and repertoire) representatives from record labels would travel great distances to find the next (fill in the blank with musical genre god).
Live venue talent scouting and demo CDs (that round thingy with the shiny side on the bottom) have now been replaced by YouTube (music is now the number-one searched topic), SoundCloud, and other free online digital distribution platforms. To use an analogy, the more noise there is in a space, the more difficult it is for people to hear you speak... The music recording industry is becoming a very noisy place.
Instead of waiting to be discovered, focus on being creatively diligent. If social media has taught us anything it’s that people typically “discover” what a bunch of other people are already looking for.
Statement #2: “I want to record an album”
See Statement #1. Typically, I find that artists view an album as the primary instrument for being “discovered” — and in some ways, they’re right. A commercially released, cohesive musical collection helps tell the story of who you are as an artist and what you uniquely offer to the creative community.
There’s just one problem – there’s roughly 100 gazillion people who are thinking and doing the same thing. Selah.
Distinguish yourself by doing the hard work of telling the world your story. What is God doing in your heart? How is that affecting the community around you? Share your journey.
Don’t assume that your audience is only interested in the quality of your music. They want to know more.
Statement #3: “I want to be signed”
Let me try to distill the above statement before I address it:
“I want to be signed” = “I want to make money doing music”
I’ll restrain myself from going into music business philosophy lest you begin to snore and slobber. Instead I offer the following verse of scripture to help guide your decision:
“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” —Ecclesiastes 11:6
Here’s what I’ve learned from applying this scripture:
1) Sow your talent diligently.
2) Sow your talent generously.
3) Be satisfied in knowing that God will prosper you in time.
Take the pressure of “getting signed” off yourself. The greatest financial agreement that a person can enter into is a covenant relationship with God. Simply put, be diligent and God will prosper you — record deal or not.