Hey UPSTAGE family! Happy Tuesday. This week I'll be giving you my best pieces of advice for artists in their early stages of professional business.
Before we get to that, let me start by sharing a little personal preface to all of this. Skip it if you must- but I promise you'll get at least one laugh out of it.
My foundational musical experiences were various in nature. Overwhelmingly, a lot of it felt extremely frustrating and blindly lead. I had zero knowledge of how to professionally pursue music before I entered college, I had never touched an Apple computer or even used a thumb drive before. One of my professors had to teach me how to use both of these things. I was 18 with a passion for performing but I had no idea what guitar pedals were, XLR cables, or what "the speakers that people use when performing" (monitors) were called. I acoustically solo gigged with a $150 Amazon Karaoke machine my first year in college because I had absolutely no guidance on how to do anything. For perspective, that is 2018.
About six months later, I found myself in my initial stages of being an "aspiring musician." With lots to learn ahead of me, I thankfully found myself situated in a band that was fortunate enough to use a great pro sound system with an in- ear monitor rack, no more karaoke. Obsessed from the first downbeat of the kick drum on the first day of rehearsal, I knew this would be a life - long journey full of constant learning, evolving, but potentially lots of crying.
Over the course of the next two and half years, I honed in on my writing skills, learned theory, music business, and production. It was then, I also got my first shots at producing my own pieces of musical content.They weren't great- but I did it. I invested into my own branding, sold merch both in person and online, opened for a couple awesome acts such as DESSA and then ultimately crashed with the hit of the pandemic. Spring gigs canceled and plans for a European trip turned to dust. It had been arranged for me to play some little sets in London, Berlin, & Stockholm- quite a bummer. All of my work and momentum stopped right in it's tracks. (This was me and every other musician out there, however) but it certainly taught me a very important thing, that just performing isn't enough. I needed to develop several business and technical skills to build out streams of income and support my music.
Alas, I went straight from college to interning at a professional recording studio, where I ended up landing a job as an engineer. The highlight of my time there was this past year, spending months in both pre- production and recording with "The Foxgloves" on their first full length album as their creative producer.
Now I am also here, running a little artist & project development company four to five days a week, pulling out my hair with how busy you talented folk keep me.
I am still growing as a musician, and the beauty of UPSTAGE is that as I continue to grow and learn, all of my artists will also reap the benefits. I wanted to create a business to support other artists with the guidance that I never had. I don't want artists to feel as alone on their journeys (especially in their foundational stages) as I did. And if I have this knowledge that I worked my a** off to learn- I figured it would be a waste for it to only benefit myself. And why make others make all of the mistakes that I did? This March will mark 5 years since I began my musical journey.
Thankfully, all of you are starting miles ahead of where I was when I started. I knew nothing.
My story aside, I present "things I wish I could tell myself five years ago."
1. No amount of talent in a musician is worth working with, if they have a *****y attitude.
People in the industry don't want to hire these type of musicians either! Find team players who are humble and believe in your work. These are who you want on your team.
2. Just.. take your time. I am infamous for completely overshooting and worrying about big picture goals when all I should focus on is the next step in front of me. Although I'm still trying to break this habit- I could have saved myself so much stress in the beginning.
3. When working on projects, being particular and specific when planning out each step will save you from missing the details. Details are always what take your final product from leaning amateur to being closer to professional.
4. Less is often more. Quality over quantity. This goes for both live and recorded products. Don't play a half- rehearsed 1-hour set when you could have an amazing 30-minute set. No one will remember any amount of average music, but they will remember content that knocked their socks off, even when it's not a lot. I wish I understood that a few years back.
5. Theres no skipping when it comes to learning. In college I did this thing where I looked for shortcuts to get through the areas that frustrated me. I ended up forming musical habits that were harder to un-learn than learning the basics would've been to begin with.
6. You can't assume that anyone else will advocate for you. (Except me, of course, I am in your corner.) But you've still gotta be your own #1 fan. You are also the only one responsible for getting yourself up every morning to progress your career. No one else wants your dream the way you do.
7. Create your own opportunities. I spent a LOT of time waiting for opportunities to come around in my early phases of being a musician when all I had to do was go out, create them, or find one and flat-out ask for it. People won't always be able to support you when you f*** up, but they WILL take a chance on you.
Thanks for reading my longest letter to date- but I promise next week will be back to normal, less sentimental programming. 💀🖤
Jada & UPSTAGE LLC