by Cari Cole
Dave Grohl said it best:
“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, “Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for 8 F’ing hours with 800 people at a convention center and then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not F’ing good enough. Can you imagine? It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old F’ing drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck too. And then they’ll F’ing start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments, and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass sh$t, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need an F’ing computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.” Dave Grohl.
Look, American Idol was actually a pretty smart model that emerged as the music industry was falling apart. In some respects you could say it saved a dying industry – but really not for artists, for the big boys. It created an instant platform for major labels to reach millions of “instant” fans and basically test market a new artist and achieve somewhat “instant” success. And some artists like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood went on to mega stardom as a result. But what price did they pay for their “instant” success (and are still paying) and at what cost artistically? I’m sure they sacrificed quite a bit more than most people realize.
As an artist myself, Reality Competition show was not an option. Because artistry to me is not a competition, it’s an art. Could you imagine legends like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell doing Idol? Nope. I guess there is a big difference between “performers” and “artists”, and I’ve always been in the artist camp first. Even though I’ve received multiple standing ovations as a singer, it was never JUST about the voice for me. Some of you may agree. It’s about SO much more.
But even more interesting about this whole passing paradigm of the Reality Competition is the question of how much it sidetracked musicians and artists that might otherwise have hunkered down into the craft instead of setting their sights on being discovered? Whenever you drive your career from that perspective, your artistry will suffer and as a result, so will your career and your business opportunities. I’ve seen artists waste 2-3 years (or more) pursuing these competitions only to end up broke (you have to pay for everything yourself – all the travel, clothing for the shows, etc.) and end up broken-spirited to say the least. I have seen ridiculously talented singers and artists get passed on. It’s demoralizing. The best don’t win, that’s for sure.
What Dave says, applies also to today’s artist as an entrepreneur – musicpreneur. If you are too busy chasing success and recognition you’ll miss it. You’ll easily overlook the work that is on YOUR plate, not a potential manager’s plate. The good news today is that if you educate yourself you can create your own success. There are almost 8 billion people on the planet. All you need to have a successful business as a musician or recording artist is to reach 100,000 people. Set your sights on that and create a real strategy to get there (work with a music mentor like myself, build a real team who believes in you, find a community of dedicated pro artists and industry who can help you get there) and you’ll be in the running.
There is no manual for the music business. You have to study and learn and get yourself in the game. You can’t write, perform, produce and market yourself solely by yourself and expect any kind of real success. DIY is a losing proposition. That was a term that got us through the transition. Now it’s up to you to learn this business and get yourself in it.