On occasion young artists will come to me and ask me how they can get their careers started. Yesterday a young lady sent me her video for me to critique and then give advice. I told her that she did the right thing in making the video, but the most important part of what she was trying to accomplish had to do with her marketing concept. You might have a great song. You might even have a great video. However, if no one knows about you then all your efforts will be wasted. Getting a deal with a record label will probably not help out much. Labels have a ton of artists already signed to them, but they only promote a small number of the ones they have, thereby using the other signed artists as tax write-offs. I remember years ago talking to a lady who had a couple of hit songs on the R&B charts. Her name was Vesta Williams and she was a “great” singer. We were all riding together in a bus headed to a gig and she and I talked about her career. She mentioned that she was signed to the same label as Janet Jackson. She was a little heavy (but she was very curvy and carried her weight well). She said that she could “out sing” Janet easily (and she was right… She had a tremendously powerful voice that would rattle the monitors onstage). At one point in her life she was a background singer for Chaka Khan. During our conversation she told me that she planned on losing some weight so that she could get some of that “slim girl money” they were paying Janet. She knew the label was investing all of their money behind promoting Janet and she felt that she was a much better singer. However, the issue wasn’t really about singing. Janet already came from a very well known family music name. She was a Jackson, and the Jackson 5 (along with big time brother Michael) was already famous. Janet’s family name was very influential in helping to promote her career. Needless to say, Vesta “did” lose the weight but eventually she still got dropped from her label. Janet eventually got dropped too, but much later down the line after she had already generated millions of dollars from her career. I am mentioning this because too many young up and coming artists feel that their product is all they need to make it big. Young rappers think that just because their lyrics are great that they don’t need much more to achieve fame on a global level. Right now the music industry is struggling. Years ago artists could sell millions in CD and record sales, but with the rise of the internet (and people sharing music files for free) those days seem to be long gone. While it is a bad time to start a record label it is a good time to be an up and coming new artist looking to venture out. Right now a new artist will have much more control (and will be able to make more off the sales of their music) than if they were signed to a label. Labels have taken advantage of many artists over the years. That is why most of them have now disappeared from existence. As an artist you can promote yourself and be responsible for your own success. That is why it is “imperative” for young artists to concentrate on the marketing concept as well as the music. If no one knows about your music then no one will be able to purchase it. No artist will make it on just “talent alone.” Once you become a businessperson then you are on the right road to building your career. Labels are businesses. They are looking to make money. They are not looking to be fair to anyone. Be fair to yourself. If you can’t get radio play then find OTHER ways to promote your career. Think beyond the limitations of the box, and make it all work… Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought, and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.
Janet Jackson onstage with Brett Jolly