(Blues, Jazz singer Cheryl Hodge - author, is currently nominated for BEST BLUES SONG, 2011, at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards)
People are always asking me about what my secrets have been for getting ahead in the music biz. It's almost like they think there is some magic answer that will help them move up the ladder. Well, in a funny way, maybe there is one. But you might not like the answer.
There are basically three rules that I live by and have for 30 years. In order to succeed in the music biz (the simple answer), you need three basic ingredients. In time you will find that all three ingredients are inner-related, and that one hand scratches the other. You must have:
1.) A great musical product (it doesn't have to be original - but if you are going to do a cover, do it nothing like the original... avoid comparisons.) The first 20 seconds of the production have to be both innovative, infectious, and flawless. This has to be music so catchy that if you, yourself, had only enough money to buy one CD a year, this would be the one you would buy. Put yourself in the consumer's seat. Remember, we are presently in a devastating recession. Talk is cheap (there are lots of sales pitches out there), and money is dear. For someone to buy your music, they need to be really moved by you, in a way that no one else has.
2.) Relentless drive (unending belief in yourself). 99% of the artists who are successful did not "make it" over night. They knew, at the start, that they would most likely be in for a "long haul" before the public would become aware of them. The chances of being a huge success in the selling market are actually less than that of being kidnapped, believe it or not. When people see those odds, they tend to become daunted. The sooner you get started, the better. Look at former mouseketeers, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christine Aguilera. Starting early certainly gave them a "leg up" in the business. However, having said all this, it is truly never too late. At 56 years old, I am starting to be discovered in the biz. Why? Because I didn't give up. I believed in my music; I believed in myself. I knew my niche, as it were. I realized my market. The great Lou Rawls once said at a seminar that his golden rule for success was, "Never change your music to suit the public, and current trends. Do what YOU believe in. If you believe in your music, then sooner or later the public will, too."
3.) Business savvy. This is the one that some artists absolutely hate to acknowledge. Many believe that the words "business" and "artist" are polar opposites. Every year, a few songwriters approach me by saying that they feel that being a business-minded musician is the equivalent of "selling out". Interesting premise, but I beg to differ. Songs are a communication. If you believe in your art, then you will admit that you believe in communicating the message of the song with the most listeners you can possibly relay the song to. And now we get to the ultimate goal: exposure. You'll need to learn all about agents and managers. You will need to schedule out at least an hour per day of web work. You will need to know about tax shelters. You will need an office that includes: a computer, possibly (probably) a home studio, a phone/fax machine, a scanner, a filing cabinet, and a few absolutely great books about the music business. One of my personal favorites is Hal Galper's book, "The Touring Musician". The best way to find out what you like is to talk to some of the most successful people whom you have already made acquaintances with in the music business.