Speak from the heart, not the head. Go with what feels right.
The more you think about it, the greater the chance you’re sacrificing your authenticity.
You can play to the audience or yourself. The audience changes, you don’t. Either draw people to you for who you truly are, a unique individual or get left behind when tastes change.
Go for the long money, not the short. The news is always about the short money, influencers, people whoring themselves out for cash, the long story is not sexy enough for the news.
You can’t oversell. Either people are drawn to you or they are not. Your work is the advertisement, people either resonate with it or they don’t.
The more fake the news is, the more sold out politicians are, the more people are searching for truth, this is what you deliver.
Don’t lie about the past to make yourself supposedly look good. Don’t say you grew up poor if you didn’t. Don’t say it was God’s plan, it never was. Own the hard work you put in. You’re a beacon, a lesson, people know when you’re obfuscating.
The entertainment business is built on hype. Everybody will want you to cave to the machine. Not only news outlets, but your record label, your agent and quite possibly your manager. Your team only gets paid when you get paid. Acts come and go, you’re one and done if you screw up. It’s hard to stand up to the experienced, but you must.
Don’t posit you’re better than anybody else, you’re not.
Let the art speak for you. Clothes and other imaging take away from this. Yes, the fashion shoot gets you more attention and free clothes, but people know that’s exactly why you did it, and they don’t have the same opportunities, and you and your work resonate best when you’re seen as equal to them.
Own the fruits of your labor. If you fly private, you earned it. Don’t try to hide the truth, there’s no benefit.
Are you into lifestyle or art? Sure, you can take a vacation. But if you hang with people just because they are rich, or famous, you’re doing a disservice to not only your image, but your fans. People resent billionaires. Sure, they want to be them, but they know that really there’s no chance, especially in today’s America. But if you go on the yacht, if you’re seen hanging with the titans of industry, it’s going to work against you.
Speak truth to power. Never hold back.
Don’t constantly weigh in on what’s going on unless that’s part of your art.
Don’t complain about your hard life, no one wants to hear it.
You’re someone who came from nowhere and made it. You’re not someone who made it to Hollywood and forgot your old friends and where you came from.
Collaboration muddies credibility/authenticity. It’s one thing if it’s a charity project, but if you’re bringing in ringers to have a hit, believe me, the audience knows this. If you can’t write a hit song, then fine, but you haven’t got any credibility to begin with. Do not equate stardom with credibility. There are plenty of stars who have no credibility.
Credible artists can sell tickets off cycle, they don’t need a hit to draw their fans, their fans are bonded to them all the time.
Admit your mistakes.
Ignore the rabble-rousers. People will bait you, try to get you to react, it’s a no-win game.
Love and loss, that’s what life is about. Feel free to write about it and talk about it.
Success delivers opportunities that the hoi polloi are not privileged to get. If they relate to who you are, go for it. If not, hold back.
Your inner tuning fork is everything, if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.
You channel truth. That’s your job. 24/7.
There’s nothing wrong with humor, but people should be able to get the joke.
Don’t constantly thank your fan base. You generated the success, not them. Own your success, you did it, in a world where it’s nearly impossible to do.
You’re not in a popularity contest.
Chances are you’ll be denigrated and ignored, for not playing the game the way everybody else does. People hate it when you go your own way.
You’re gong to suffer, both personally and commercially. It’s the nature of life. It’s much easier to sell out and play the game, but then you don’t have a lasting career.
In today’s marketplace the hardest thing to do is sustain. Anybody can have momentary stardom, people like to watch the car crash. But when the wreckage is pulled from the highway, they stop thinking about it.
Don’t be attached to old paradigms. Adjust or you die. Albums are for statements, if you’re not making one long one don’t hold back until you’ve got ten or twelve songs to have a release, drop material more frequently, there’s nothing a fan wants more than more material, deliver it, forget conventional wisdom, publicity, you’re building your fan base one by one, it’s an edifice, which only you can construct and you can own, don’t expect everyone else to pay attention.
Do the hard work, don’t cut corners.
Your work is everything. Don’t do something just because the experienced producer tells you to. They move on, you own the final product, forever.
Take chances, now, more than ever, your failures don’t haunt you.
You’re human, you react, you don’t want to be media-trained to the point where your rough edges are sanded off, then again, the media is always out to get you and always gets it wrong.
You’re making music for the loner lying in bed at night listening to your music to prevent suicide, not the team captain hanging with his buddies. Music is inherently personal. The broader it gets, the less authentic and credible it is. If you’re making music for the masses, for the playlists, to fit in, you’re doing it wrong.
Fans must feel like they own you, but don’t be controlled by them.
Everybody’s so different, but you haven’t changed. That’s success. And better not to change. More money means better meals and better wheels, for everybody, it doesn’t mean you’re fabulous and go to all the trendy spots and hang out.
Manipulation is obvious. Everybody knows reality television is fake, everybody knows the Kardashians have had plastic surgery. They’re selling a fantasy, there’s nothing credible or authentic about it. But when they’re gone, they’re done, your music should last forever, it should ride shotgun in the fans’ lives always.
Try to be nice to everybody, but if you’re overburdened or someone takes advantage, feel free to bark back. Ironically, the more you do this, the more credible and authentic you appear. People know you’re being hounded. Actually, fans tend to be respectful, it’s the loonies who stalk you, who want personal attention, ten percent of the public are loonies, and you never know who they are, and they’re in all fields, don’t play to them, but those who understand and respect you.
Do interviews/podcasts with those who have a reputation for credibility and authenticity. This is why an appearance on Howard Stern means so much, not because of the size of his audience, but because of the bond his audience has to him.
Constantly experiment and evolve. Staying in a rut is death. Furthermore, everybody experiments and evolves, that’s the nature of life, you don’t want to be seen as someone people listened to way back when, you don’t want to be stuck in time.
If you wear glasses off stage, wear them on stage, or wear contacts. Don’t stumble through life not seeing just to look better.
How you look can help you, but that’s not what you’re selling. The Beatles were beautiful, but they would have been successful even if they were ugly.
Live life. You can’t be authentic if you’re detached. Read the news, watch television, it’s inspiring. It’s in your down moments, when you’re not working, when you’re off the clock, that you’re most inspired.
Your job is to create art, not to be a star.
Don’t be swayed by trends, they’ll kill your career overnight. People still hate Rod Stewart for “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” never mind his “American Songbook” records. He forgot who his core audience is, and now he wants hit core audience to still care, most don’t.
Be organic, don’t manipulate the game. Don’t try to get someone on some new platform to use your material to create a success. Leave it to your fans.
You’re an artist, not a business person. We don’t want to hear about your tech investments, unless they’re passion projects. If you’re in it to get rich, you’re in the wrong game. You can make a lot of money in music, but nowhere near that of the Silicon Valley and tech titans. But, do it right and you can make the titans nervous. Facebook ruins the world but no artist will stand up to the platform for fear of alienating Zuckerberg, putting a dent in their exposure and future. You can attack bad actors, just don’t make it a crusade, that’s someone else’s job.
Don’t get behind every charity project unless that’s part of your image, part of your art.
Products are inert, art is not. So be wary of attaching yourself to products.
Endorsements are off the table, unless you truly believe in something and use it constantly. Which means chances are it’s not going to be one of the big products always looking for a celebrity endorser, but something more personal. Endorse Genesee, not Budweiser. Genesee is crap, but if you grew up in upstate New York and it was your beer of choice and you still drink it, go for it. An endorsement must be almost a joke, like “they’re paying me to say I use it, I use it all the time already!”
Let your fan club buy tickets early, not Amex holders.
Don’t worry about keeping ticket prices down, diehard fans will pay anything to see you, you’re worth it, don’t bitch about scalpers. But that does not mean you cannot say you’re using platinum to get rid of scalpers. Sometimes you have to explain high ticket prices. And also, like the ten percent of the public who are loonies, ten percent always think they should be able to sit in the front row for every show for almost nothing, ignore them.
Festivals… Play ’em. It’s a good way to reach a new audience. It may be the only way to reach a mass audience. There’s no stigma anymore. But if you’re gonna go on first, you must be just starting out, because almost no one will see you.
Don’t be afraid to live the life of a musician. You do it to get high and get laid, don’t stop, just don’t take undue advantage, don’t cross the line, assume everything is being filmed, and act accordingly.
Drugs are not cool, your music is cool. If you’re working so hard you need drugs to cope, get off the road, stay home, chill out.
Your feelings are everything. Channel them in music and lyrics.