Biz 101 Getting Started

5 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started As An Indie Artist: Part 2

Wednesday, July 15, 2015MsAvaBella

Probably the second I completed part 1 and pressed the post button, I absolutely knew there were things I could have added or elaborated on. I immediately felt like I didn’t really tell you all enough about this extremely complex life that I’ve been leading as an artist. Truth is, there are more than 5 things you should know if you’re an artist trying to find your way in this here music game…there’s like a ga-gillion - so this post may go on for a while and have many parts as I learn and grow; I'll continue to share with you!

One of my favorite books is by Chris Gardner. You know, the guy Will Smith played in the movie? I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting him and have both of his books, The Pursuit of Happyness and Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. I HIGHLY recommend reading both of these. No matter what it is that you want to do as an artist or entrepreneur or whatever; this should be in your personal library or perhaps in your Kindle app. “Start Where You Are” will jolt you into understanding one main idea – “The cavalry ain’t coming”.

Chris starts out in chapter one with those 4 words. When I read the first sentence I was like, well damn, that’s not encouraging, but something in me made me keep reading. The more I read, the more I understood that he wanted to get across nobody is going to help you if you haven’t first helped yourself! For your viewing pleasure, WATCH Chris Gardener talk a little bit about the calvary and how it ain't nevuh comin'.

Ok, let’s get started with my updated list of 5…

1. Get Yo Mind Right! | I think my Dad has always been worried about me being creative, being an artist, and in my feelings. He knows that I am his sensitive child. He knew I would get hurt if anyone ever said that I couldn’t sing. I’ve always seen my father as someone who was incredibly brilliant and strong. For the longest time, especially as a kid, I didn’t ever feel like I would get there – creative and thick skinned at the same time. Well, about 4 months ago I read a book, by Carol S. Dweck called, Mindset. This book really put things in perspective for me. The only way, and I mean the only way to be successful as a leader, or an entrepreneur, or a MUSICpreneur, is to train your mind. If you think negative, you will see negative and get negative results. Whatever it is that you are constantly telling yourself, that is the result that you will see. That’s just the way it is. So if you are constantly whinin’ and moanin’ and complaining that no one comes to your shows, guess what, THEY WON’T. Instead, get out there, sell tickets yourself, and stop thinking you can promo on facebook, twitter, and Instagram, and the venue will be sold out. It ain’t happenin’…THE CALVARY AIN’T COMIN.
2. You Ain’t That GoodWhat makes you think that if you do a couple open mics, or even a feature or two in your home town, that you are Grammy material? This may sound downright outlandish to some, but I have met several artist that believe they don’t need lessons, they don’t need training, they don’t need writers; I mean they really think they got it. Off GP! Guess what, for the longest, I was that artist. I thought that just because I had lessons at 14, studied opera in college (for 2 semesters, might I add), I didn’t need a vocal coach. I didn’t need to practice. I didn’t even prepare. I would drink heavy, I would smoke literally right before walking on stage, and I wasn’t exercising. Some of those most horrible performance moments, thank the most high, have never seen the light of YouTube or the interwebs as a whole. Here’s the thing, I want a Grammy; it’s actually on my bucket list. So I had to make changes to put me on the path to at least get me to the show. I finally began to listen to wise council and researched vocal coaches, got a membership at the YMCA, and also cut way back on drinking and smoking. I remember my argument was, “Whitney Houston smokes Virginia Slims.” It took one good side-eye for me to forever understand – “baaay-beh you ain’t no Whitney Houston". Take care of your gifts and talents folks.
3. Serve The StoryAva DuVernay. This woman. This vessel. No, I am not a Stan. Last week, while scrolling in my FB timeline I saw she was the keynote speaker during the Film portion of SXSW (if you have never been, go! See number 4). She spoke about intention and attention and then she said 3 words during her speech that probably will impact my career going forward – “serve the story”. Now what does that mean for us MUSICpreneurs? As songwriters, we have to paint pictures with words and melodies. It’s our job to create this cinematic image in the minds of the listener that will speak to them and strike a chord. It has to be melodic, there has to be something about the lyrics that will stick with people, darn it; it’s got to be good! Not the BS we hear on radio and see on the idiot box today. It has to be timeless. I’ve never played with my writing. My personal belief is that the words and melody flow over me and into me from the Most High. It’s very important that I not get in the way of what God wants to communicate through me for the sake of trends, swag, what’s cool, or whatever. Ava confirmed that for me: All I have to do is SERVE THE STORY. WATCH Ava DuVernay’s Keynote Speech @ SXSW Film 2015
4. Go ExploreSo I mentioned SXSW in number 3. If you are an artist and you have never been to SXSW or Cochella (which I am truly planning to make this year), or the Roots Picnic, or any large scale music festival; GO! There will be artists attending and performing that are out of this stratosphere with tons of talent. Most people start planning for these festivals a year in advance. This year I was a media sponsor for the annual Black Vine Worldwide Media Group Showcase at SXSW. Last year, I was an artist on their showcase and it was my first time going. It blew my mind! There were thousands of artists, filmmakers, creatives, and tech startups.  I got to watch people from all over the country who are definitely on their way to the Grammy stage, on their way to innovating some amazing weeblebot (yes I made that up), or creating films that will be so important in our lives! Some of them made it to the Grammys this year and I just met them last year. You have to get out of your own little world and see what’s what in order for you to grow in your craft.

5. Never Stop LearningNumber 4 and 5 are similar. Over the last 2 years, I’ve read books, attended webinars, watched videos, logged into Edx and taken Harvard classes (a few times), but mostly, my favorite thing to do is to attend conferences and conventions. You all may remember my post about the DJ’s United Conference last year? Going to the conference which was literally 4 hours from where I live, allowed me to be in the same room with industry heavy hitters, entertainment attorneys, public relations professionals, social media gurus, and about 40-50+ DJ’s from all different regions of the country. There were panel discussions that were led by a man who has single handedly been instrumental in about roughly 90% of the movement of the industry. The only way I knew that I needed to be there is because I did my research. I knew who was attending and I knew that I needed to at the very least have my EP critiqued by these individuals in a very intimate setting. There was an opportunity for that. Phone numbers were exchanged, I learned what I needed to do to navigate the industry with my sound, and I actually have to attribute you even reading this post right now to getting a co-sign from thee Kevin Black (you better Google him). Not overnight, but as I have continued to work on my brand in whole as an artist and MUSICpreneur, it has grown (and still growing)! It literally tickles me every time I see how many people have read my crazy little thoughts.

That’s all I have for now good people! Go forth and be great and start working on each of these five things per week (or at least 3)! Let me know what is working for you as artist. Is there anything I missed? Maybe you want me to cover a specific topic? Sound off below in the comments or go on and tweet me.

Thanks for reading,


You Might Also Like


Tell us what you think!

Download Now


Contact Form