What I've Learned.

Posted by Jennifer Thomas Category: Music Career, Random

Well here we are – the beginning of a brand new year.

I know many of you are working on new years resolutions, goals, and trying to find ways to make 2012 an awesome year for you.  I can surely lump myself in with the rest of you as I’m personally working on many goals this year as well.  On the music front – I have a new album coming out this year, I’ll be shooting my first music video, and I’ll also be working on several collaborations with a few other incredibly talented artists.

But I’ve also been looking back too.  Mostly, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am now compared to 2006 when I was recording my first album, “Key of Sea” (which was released at the beginning of 2007).  What have I learned?  What am I still learning, and what do I want to learn?

While I realize that compared to many other seasoned veterans in the music industry, I am still just an infant.  Okay, maybe not an infant. How about a toddler. I can say that, right? — That I’ve graduated from infancy and am now into the toddler stage of my career.  Anyway, my POINT is that while I may not have experienced all that I am to experience, or learned all that I am to learn – I do feel that I have learned a great deal coming from where I was to begin with.  And if I had known an artist in 2006 who could have shed this insight with me then, I know I would have really appreciated it.

So, for what it’s worth, here are my gems of information – things I’ve learned from being in the music business these past 6 years.  If you are an artist just starting out, maybe you should read this.

What I’ve Learned.  And I’ll be blunt…

1.  Patience.  This encompasses so much that I’m not sure I can fit it all into once paragraph.  I’ll try.  First off, you need to have patience with the amount of time it takes for your music to get “out there”.  They say that you can’t judge how well an album has done until it’s been on the market for 2 years.  If after 2 years, you still haven’t sold more than 10 CDs…well…then there you go. Maybe it wasn’t your best work.  But if you just released it 2 months ago, don’t give up.  You have a lot of marketing still to do.

2.  You might be good, but let’s just settle down for a second. You might think that your first album is going change the world, sell millions, and win a Grammy award, but chances are, it probably won’t.  It doesn’t mean that you aren’t talented.  It just means you need to build your fan base and keep working harder.   And those Grammy awards are not always about how talented you are, but about who you know.  I know you didn’t want to hear that, but it’s true.

3.  Don’t hit that Upload button just yet.  You just wrote a new song, and you’re so excited about it and you want to share it with everyone on Facebook!!!  Don’t.  Trust me.  Don’t do it.  Reason #1 – if you give all the milk away, nobody is going to buy the cow.  Reason #2 – It has taken me a lot of mistakes and time and experience to learn that my work gets so, so, so much better with age.  A little percolating.  Let your songs sit for a bit and then come back and listen to them.  I guarantee you will either find mistakes, or ways to make it ten times better.  And this doesn’t just go for Facebook or youtube, or what have you.  Don’t share your work unless it’s something you can absolutely feel 100% proud of, because once it’s out there – it’s no longer your own.  Now the world owns it.  And you’d better make darn sure that it’s the final version you want the world to know.  When I am working on my own songs, it takes me an average of 6 months per song to be finalized – and that is on the speedy end.  I will compose it, let it sit, then come back to it, make changes (while recording it in the process so I can play it back and listen to it).  Once I have a final composition I’m happy with, then I’ll record the piano part.  Then I’ll start adding orchestration to it, let it sit for a while, come back to it, change it up, edit, add/change parts, let it sit some more, etc.  Perfection is a process of refinement.  Don’t rush it.

4.  Do It YOUR Way.  A lot of the recording process is accomplished quite often by the means of networking, who you know, who you are referred to because you know someone else who used that person and yadda yadda yadda.  Listen, just because your friend used so-and-so to record his album, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to as well.  This isn’t about them, it’s about you and your music and what your vision is for it.  I spent the last YEAR (or more) looking for an audio engineer that could achieve a certain sound I was looking for.  I received plenty of referrals from musician friends of engineers they had used and raved about.  It took a lot of interviewing, testing, emailing and more to finally find someone who was just what I was looking for.  And I had to go outside my normal realm of networking to find him.

5.  Be Choosy.  If you really care about your music, your career, and the quality of what you put out, then you need to be choosy with every decision you make.  I’m not saying this to sound like I’m stuffy.  All I’m saying is, say, if your friend offers to build you a website as a trade for free CDs – that’s awesome.  But if it doesn’t turn out how you want it to and reflects badly on you and your professionalism, then get it done right.  Build your professional relationships with people you can trust and depend on, and if you have to change something up, hopefully it’s with someone whom you won’t lose a friendship over for doing so.

6.  More patience.  I’ve mentioned patience right?  Well I’ll say it again.  It is far better to put out the best quality you can, over the most quantity.  It is better to look forward in hope rather than behind you with regret.  You can’t force creativity or it’s going to actually sound like it’s fake and forced.  Dig deep.  Don’t sell yourself short.  And work hard.  Work hard some more, and then some more.

7.  You are capable of much more than you think you are.  Just like how the human body is capable of achieving way more when under pressure (or under a physical trainer), your mind is capable of much more than you think.  You have not hit your creative cap, and I don’t think you ever will. You will always be learning and growing and evolving in your art.

So there you have it. My words of wisdom.  Take what you will from it.

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