Suppose you have a team of 8 people. One day, after a show, you happen to meet Lenny S – VP of A&R at Def Jam Records. If the other seven people on your “team” are all handing Lenny their demos, then maybe you don’t have the best team – or maybe you’re not the right artist. If you can’t get your closest friends and supporters to buy into your music, how can you expect anyone else to? If you can’t convince your seven closest friends that you’re their best opportunity to get into the music industry, then how can you convince the millions of music listeners to buy your music over the tons of others?
If they’re handing Lenny their demos, that means in their mind, they feel they have a better chance of making it than you do. And if your best friends think that – the ones who hear every song and see every performance you do – why should anyone else take the chance on you? They know you best, and they’re obviously convinced you can’t make it.
If you have a good team in place, they should all be rallying around the one, single idea. Everything should be promoting the same song, the same demo, wearing the same artist or label t-shirts. Doesn’t mean they don’t believe in themselves as artists, but it shows that they all feel that you are the best chance at success. Once they help get you on, then you can turn around and bring them up.
You need to surround yourself with people who are willing to put their personal ambitions to the side in order to support you. Let me explain it this way. The president isn’t necessarily the best politician. He might not have all the right answers or all the right views. But he’s the one that his whole party believes in. He’s the one they put all their hopes behind. You don’t see his or her running mate doing interviews saying “yea, Obama would be good, but if I got my shot…”. Everybody puts on a unified front. Obama, for example, is the front man for the party. He convinced his team to get behind him. He got them to believe in him. Then got the voters to believe. The whole machine worked around him. He was the face. He takes all the ideas from all of his braintrust and he presents it.
As an artist, it’s a very similar situation. You need people who will promote your music. Who will help create a trend. Build your brand. You need people that will show up with you to every open mic and cheer, hand out CDs, network and spread your name.
If you can’t convince the people in your circle to rally behind you, you probably don’t have what it takes to be an artist.
A close friend of mine, Juganot, said that exact thing to me. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve met. Amazing writer, great voice, melody, ear for beats. Everything. Total package. He was managed by DJ Camilo, and therefore had every freestyle or song he wrote played on Hot 97. But even with all that, he’s now in his late 30s and still in the same position he was in while in his early 20s. We spoke about it one day and he said it’s because he doesn’t have a team. Everybody around him is busy pushing their own dreams, their own career.
I found it interesting that, despite all the radio recognition he’d received, all the guest features that he had been able to secure, and even after a mildly successful national record (En Why Cee), that he couldn’t get his circle to put their ambitions to the side to support Juganot. Surely, if they felt he was close and they helped get him on, then it would be good for his entire Strictly Live Crew, wouldn’t it? A big artist – a 50 Cent – can put on an entire crew. So, by not being able to convince them that he was their best chance, what does that say about him as an artist?
Unfortunately, being successful is not just about talent. It’s the intangibles.
You gotta convince your friends before you can convince a world full of skeptical strangers.