James Danziger offers four essential rules for young photographers to “survive” in what’s becoming a challenging line of work. It strikes me that all four rules apply to emerging musicians and artist managers, too:
1. Have talent.
Danziger says, “Talent is not when your friends tell you they love your work, but when people who don’t like you have to admit it’s good.” It’s crushingly easy to surround yourself with people willing to cash in on your need for praise. Seek out fair and constructive criticism from folks who have no personal or financial interest in your success.
2. Understand how the world works.
The original list of rules advises creatives to “develop social skills.” It’s true that many musicians and songwriters chose their professions as a way of distancing themselves from the rest of the world. It’s important to split the difference between your perspective of the world from behind the mic and your ability to understand what your audience wants and needs.
3. Choose good friends.
True friends don’t have their hands in your pocket. True friends want to see you succeed on the basis of your talent and on your relationship. They’re willing to put their own network on the line to help you grow your audience.
4. Be modern.
This is the toughest rule to apply for musicians, since so much advice you hear from radio and record industry professionals who fear the challenge of selling an audience on something unfamiliar. And yet, every year we talk about breakout artists who sound like nobody else you’ve ever heard.