Junior Wright is a multi-talented singer-songwriter and dancer based in Los Angeles. He’s one of the many driven artists we’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years at Dotted Music. Here he shares some of his insights on the struggles and perseverance required in the music industry.
There are many ideas floating around in the world about music business. Today, I am addressing a few notions and misconceptions. Some of these ideas are held from an outsider’s perspective, such as a consumer, while others come from an aspiring artist’s perspective. As a preemptive statement, what I will address would seem as if it is commonly understood, but I have personally run into all of this frequently.
When I first began to pursue music as an artist, I was told “If you love it, you would not be doing it for the money” or other ideas along those lines. Of course, this line of thinking comes from consumers of music. Furthermore, I wanted people to recognize me as an artist who was not interested in monetary gain and as an artist who pursued music because it was a dream. In very few other careers besides those related to the arts do people have this expectation that one should never pursue his or her passion and not be paid for his or her time, effort, and, energy.
Fortunately, I came to realize that there is a way to be a serious artist and not give everything away for free. Of course, that does not mean that every choice and decision is about money. However, it does mean that artists need to place value on what they do. Placing value on oneself as an artist also helps weed through people who simply want to take advantage so that the artist can arrive to people who are actually invested in him or her, fans and music professionals alike.
From a consumer perspective, many people do not realize that artists have to invest in themselves, much like other businesses. There are investments in classes, buying the tools (i.e. instruments), travel expenses, advertising, and creating music as a few examples. Even if they do realize there are costs, they really do not take these costs as seriously as they would another profession. If a person said, “I need money for a briefcase, a computer, some uniforms or attire”, many tend to understand that these are investments into oneself.
In addition to the aforementioned ideas of consumers not really grasping the commitment to music, many consumers do not grasp the difficulty of gaining exposure. Ideas like “It should be easy for you because there are so many opportunities now like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook” have been stated to me, which is true. However, as artists, we are not only competing with the millions of other artists, including major and established artists, on the internet, which is saturated, but every other entity that exists. Literally, artists are competing for attention against cats playing with yarn on camera, as an example.
On the other hand, there are the basics of the business such as musicians and performers needing to learn how to contact people, who to contact, and when to contact them. Also, artists should learn how to figure out how to market and promote their music, when to contact a publicist, and the correct venues to showcase yourself as a few examples. This seems like very basic knowledge; however, I have other artists asking me advice on these basic questions. I assure you, I have been there.
Other basics that seemed to be ignored or disregarded by artists are simple concepts like professionalism. Some artists tend to forget that this is a business. For example, it amazes me how some musicians have contacted me an hour after they are supposed to be at a rehearsal, with no forewarning, but they still want to work with me or show up to a gig unprepared. As much as I wish that issues like these aforementioned ones were exclusive to me, I have worked with other independent artists who have started to regularly experience these issues as well. I completely understand that we are artists who are supposed to scoff at tradition, but do not forget how to handle your business.
It may seem like many people would already know these ideas or execute them, however, it is not always the case. If I have enlightened anyone with what I have written, I have done my job as a writer. If I have offended anyone today with what I have written, then I have done my job as an artist. Thank you for reading my thoughts on the understanding of music business.