The music industry is a seemingly infinite field where one can find themselves lost quite easily. There are hoops to jump through, bridges to not burn, opportunities that need taking, and of course, music to be made. Artists, labels, blogs, fans, and everyone in between form the complex web that is known as the music industry, however, it continues to expand and become more complex. As the manager of the up and coming Chicago-based duo, X5IGHT, it is 19-year-old Kiera Miller’s job to understand this web and as a young female in this industry, her point of view can be a little different from the norm.
As a social work major (arts management certificate) at Indiana University, Miller believes she has found her passion: to give people hope and to help them live their dreams. One might ask what do social work and the music industry have in common? According to Miller, the two go hand in hand. Innovation, new ideas, and out-of-the-box thinking always keep the ball rolling and that is just what Miller hopes to bring you today. She has taken the time to give us her input on how to experience a satisfying and successful career in the music industry.
1. Have a mind of your own
So many people think that they have to fit a certain image in order to be successful in this industry. For instance, some believe that drinking and partying are essential to fit in. Personally, I do not partake in drinking/doing drugs and thus far have gotten along just fine. I enjoy parties and I think they are great for networking, but do I have to be drinking an alcoholic beverage to feel comfortable? Absolutely not. Also, it is not necessary to name drop in order to seem competent. Be humble and proud of what you have accomplished, but don’t make yourself seem arrogant.
On another note, don’t be afraid to work independently. I would prefer to not work within a company. I want to be my own boss because I know best what strengths and weaknesses I possess. I don’t mind working with companies, I do often actually, but working within one is just not for me at this time. If you do choose to work for a company, don’t let someone tell you that you have to “pay your dues” before you can advance or do what you want to do. That being said, always have a mind of your own and don’t fall into the status quo. Work hard, and earn your respect. Be different, it’s rewarding.
2. Remember where you came from
Most people don’t start at the top. You have to work your way up. Don’t ever forget that. The more you advance in this industry, the more people you have who look up to you and ask for help, advice, and guidance. Remember that you were once at the bottom of the totem pole and sought help from those more knowledgeable and experienced. Always give people the time of day and show them respect. You never know who may be ahead of you in the future.
In addition, never forget about your friends outside of the music industry. Time is limited, but you can always make time for people who have supported you for a very long time. Invite them to shows and talk to them on a regular basis. You will make a lot of close friends in this industry, but it’s always nice to have friends who aren’t attached to the music industry.
3. You’re a product of your environment
You are always going to have people who discourage you, but you will also always have people who encourage and support you. Surround yourself with positive people who have similar dreams, aspirations, or ambitions. If you are succeeding, you are going to have people who are envious of you and may even try to ruin your future/career…don’t let them. Life isn’t easy; you are going to experience a lot of discouraging and difficult times, but you need to have hope and optimism in order to overcome those challenges. The good will always outweigh the bad. You just have to stay positive and expect the unexpected. If you have supportive friends, they will pick you up during the difficult times. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy and often times, the end reward becomes more attractive when you have to overcome so many obstacles. Have hope. One day may suck, but the next could be a completely different story.
4. Don’t burn bridges
As I said before, you will have people who support you and others who don’t. Be the bigger person. If a situation arises (whether it be your fault or not), apologize anyways and move on. If someone doesn’t recognize or accept your apology, then it’s their problem and they most likely were not worth your time and energy from the start. Don’t fight fire with fire. Instead, “kill people with kindness”. It’s often hard to do, but it can reap benefits for you in the future. Also, as a side note, be honest. If you lie, people are probably going to find out and you may not receive a second chance.
5. Be professional
Age doesn’t really matter that much in this industry, but professionalism does. There are plenty of people in their teens/early 20’s who are very mature, but there is also an abundance of the opposite. People will respect you if you carry yourself the right way. When you network it’s important to act maturely and professionally until you’ve really developed a close relationship with that person. Eventually, you will be able to speak and act in a more casual fashion. Don’t be afraid to network with anyone. Networking is so key in this industry. People will take the time to notice you if you give them a reason to.
6. Helping people should be your priority, not money
Don’t let the thought of money get the best of you. Manage artists to help them and because you love the music. Managers don’t make a ton of money initially; so don’t expect to be rolling in dough (that comes later). Do what you love and money will follow. Put others before yourself. You will be dealing with people’s problems and will need to help solve them. However, you do need to make sure you are happy and satisfied so that you can help others more effectively.
Don’t be closed-minded; be open to all genres of music and to other people’s ideas and constructive criticism. You get to work with such a diverse population in this industry so when you choose to be open-minded, it makes for a much more successful outcome. In addition, don’t do favors for people and expect something in return. Do favors or help people because you truly want to help someone. If they help you in return, great! If not, oh well. Be selfless, not selfish.
Brandon’s Artist-To-Artist Advice:
When it all comes down to it we are here for the artists, so why not get the artist’s perspective? Next we have a segment from 19-year-old Brandon Levinson, ½ of X5IGHT, whom also attends Indiana University and is a marketing major. With insight on both sides of the playing field he brings some intuitive artist-to-artist advice for the producers out there trying to make a name for themselves. There are three key points he stresses to other young producers with an acronym (S.A.D.) that will be explained shortly.
Talent alone will rarely boost an artist to stardom, however, a good combination of talent and work ethic, will. Most of the established artists you see today actually put in years of hard work and sacrifice before their name was even a blip on the radar. There seems to be a misconception that if you make good music, you’ll blow up in an instant. People look at an act like Krewella, and say, “well they just blew up so quickly, it looks easy”. It’s NOT. Don’t get me wrong, success in the music industry certainly isn’t unattainable, it’s just NOT easy. Let me elaborate:
To be a successful artist, obviously innovative, quality music is a given. I’m going to move a bit past that and cover some of the intangibles necessary to move your career forward. Here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… I’ll finally reveal the meaning of this acronym.
A lot of people don’t understand that being an artist (especially an up and coming artist) is a FULL time job. Think of it like you’re running your own start-up business. You’re going to have to manage finances, travel, contracts, and oh yeah, make music too. There’s a lot to do as an artist, and not enough time to do it.
You will be faced with a lot of situations where you’ll need to make important time management decisions. You have to be willing to sacrifice some things. If you really are dedicated (which I’ll get to in a few moments), you’ll often find yourself staying in on a Friday night working on music or sending out press releases, while your friends are out partying. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest aspects to deal with, hence where the “sad” in S.A.D. comes in. It can be discouraging sometimes to have to sacrifice your social or athletic life in pursuit of furthering your career. I’m not saying that you can’t go out and take a break (trust me, that’s necessary as well), but these breaks should truly act as a reward for hard work, not something you’re entitled to.
As a personal note, I often view my concerts or shows as my “break” time. I find that going in with this mentality can act as a motivator to continue to grow and seek out more live performances.
Shoot for the moon; you’ll reach the moon, right? Maybe. My belief is that you’ll at least make it up to the stratosphere. Sometimes your goals have to be lofty. Sometimes they might not even be attainable. The point of setting these goals isn’t always to reach them, but rather to have them in place in order to open new doors for opportunities and growth. The key to ambition is setting your expectations high.
You want to ensure that these aspirations are set so high that people question and doubt you. Use this as fuel. I can assure you, that it is the purest fuel I know. Take that motivation and work towards these goals, and please, please, please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Set a vision, and stick with it. As I said earlier, you may not reach the moon, but you can still achieve success along the way. Set yourself up so that the “consolation” prize is still valuable and worthwhile.
Is music a true passion? Is it a hobby? Could you live without it? These are the kind of questions you need to be asking yourself. The answers to these questions are crucial in determining whether or not to pursue a career in music. You cannot produce music as a hobby; yet expect to catch a lucky break that propels yourself into a career. Music starts as a fun hobby for most (it did for me), and that’s fine, but before you can expect to go any further, you must establish it as a genuine passion. If you come in with that mindset, you’ll be much more likely to find success in this industry.
Dedication and sacrifice go hand in hand. I’ve met some incredibly talented musicians, but for whatever reason, they weren’t able to make music their number one focus/priority. As a result, they’ve stalled and haven’t seen the growth they’d envisioned. I get it; some people view music as nothing more than noise on the radio, whereas others view it as something much greater than that. Having said that, you need to determine where you are on the spectrum. If music is something that you truly believe in, you need to eat, sleep, and breathe it. You need to dedicate your time developing relationships within the industry, creating marketing strategies, and making quality music.
I can’t guarantee you’ll make it to the moon, but if you adhere to these intangibles, I’m very confident that you will find success somewhere along the way. Enjoy it. The chase is always the most fun.