Okay, you so finished a song. Congratulations. Well, now you have to release it. Now the work starts.
You finished your album? Congratulations. Now you have to market it and set up tours. Now the work starts.
You just got signed to Universal Records. Congratulations. Now you have to prepare an album. Now the work starts.
Your album went gold! Congratulations! Guess what? Now you have to make another one, with all eyes on you. And if it’s not as good, it’ll be considered a flop and you’ll be a one-hit wonder. The label has you for your next four projects, and the day you stop being profitable, you’ll be stuck in contract hell. So, I guess, now the work really starts.
Do you see what I mean? There is no “winning” in the music industry. There’s no finish line. No matter what stage of your career you’re at, you’re really just starting. Jay-Z is still trying to prove to people that he can still make great music – and that’s after twelve great albums! There’s no finish line. Ever.
Artists tend to think “getting signed’ is some sort of finish line. Truth is, the majority of artists who sign contracts never get to release anything. That isn’t a finish line at all. It’s hardly even the starting gate. The true challenge for an artist is to always remain hungry and motivated no matter how much (or little) you’ve accomplished.
This whole concept hit me after talking to a good friend of mine (and one of the most talented singer/songwriter/performers I’ve ever met) Jaiden Roston (@jaidenthecure). He tours all over the world – he’s actually in Africa right now as I type this. I had been following him for quite some time. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. Performing, writing, touring – a total work-a-holic. The guy has toured with Jay-friggin-Z! But, like most independent artists, he was struggling to build a name for himself, despite a tremendous fan base and support system and plenty of high ranking industry friends.
After an event in LA (which I was fortunate enough to attend), Jaiden announced that he had just signed a deal with Interscope/Geffen. I was thrilled for him. After seeing everything he had done over the years, he was finally going to have his chance. It was all about to pay off. All those years of hard work, sacrificing everything – he finally signed a contract.
We were talking the next morning, and I said “Congratulations. Now the work begins.”
I said it without really thinking, but it’s stuck with me since then. Those words kept echoing in my head. I had seen him put in more work than anybody else I’ve ever known, yet all that work was just the prelude to his career. All that work was to simply get him the opportunity to try and have a career. Getting signed is considered the easy part. Getting a budget, a release date, and having a successful record, and then repeating that over and over again – THAT’S the hard part.
But how can that be possible? He wrote songs with Alicia Keys. He’s toured with Diddy, Jay-Z and Lauryn Hill. All that just so he could have the opportunity to possibly release an album?
Meanwhile, some random artist is bragging how he had his song featured on 2dopeboyz.com. He’s acting like he’s a step away from Kanye-dom. Jaiden has TOURED with these people. Recorded with them. And he’s barely at the starting line. Jaiden has a tireless work ethic. Even after all the touring, you’d still find him at every open mic event. Writing music for commercials. Back and forth, New York to LA. He never relaxed. He never took his foot off the gas and said “pfft I’ve done music with Lauryn Hill. I don’t have to work.”. He never waited for an opportunity – he created opportunities.
What does that say about the rest of you? Have you been on tour with Trey Songz? No? Oh, well, then maybe you still have some work to do before you let that nahright ego set in.
No matter how hard you’re working, there’s always somebody that’s working harder. Always someone who has accomplished more than you. You’re not competing against the people in your circle, you’re competing against people like Jaiden – who live and breathe music. So if you’re splitting your time between music, family, basketball and ______, you’re putting yourself at a tremendous disadvantage. That was the purpose of my “Father of the Year” post. You can’t work 8 hours at your job, spend 4 hours with your daughter, then use your last 2 exhausted hours for music and possibly expect to compete with those who have chosen to make music their top priority.
Oh, and my buddy Jaiden? He released two songs in April – “B4 We Even Kiss” and “Ain’t Enough”. You can pick them up on itunes.