Read The Label…
I have a vested interest in artists. Artists of all kinds, but in this post I want to specifically talk about recording artists.
I need to say a couple of things.
In my circle, I am blessed to know some of the illest MCs and vocalists in my generation. Vocalists, lyricists, songwriters, musicians…just all around beautiful creators of game changing style. But you know what gets my blood heated? When a “record label” desires to sign one of these dope artists, and then have no idea what to do with them, how to manage them, or how to listen to them. I feel the same way about major recording artists who have the resources to do all types of monumental amazingness but somehow end up either put on the shelf or stuck with lazy lyrics and a sleepy image.
Back to the message at hand though…that’s the stuff I don’t like. Most of my homies make music from the heart and really believe in what they are doing. They surround themselves with people who see their vision and want to see them succeed and share that vision with the world around them. They surround themselves with people (for the most part) who have their best interest at heart.
All I am trying to say is this is frustrating. I wish labels would pursue artists they actually believe in and want to support. It’s like a really precious expensive cut of steak. You may marinate or season it and then throw it on the grill but ultimately its the cut of the steak that makes the steak legit. It’s the quality of the steak, you just brought out it’s beauty. This is what I need record labels to do better at. Instead, it’s either all about making money off of a “hit” song or a mediocre single OR an artist and their talents are being held hostage with no resources and no attention being paid to them. What the heck for? It’s kind of like when my brother told me he wanted the new Jordans in order to wear them to school once to let everyone know he had them. *facepalm*
Beautiful art needs air to breathe. Artists…please be very very careful who you rock with and who you sign with. Read those contracts even if it takes you a month. Get a lawyer that you can trust. In the end, it will be worth it. Creative control is worth it. Authenticity is worth it. Sometimes, going into these contracts, you have no idea it’s gonna be dumb. You have no idea things are gonna go downhill because they talk such a good game in the beginning. I feel like there’s an answer for that too. See how interested they are in your work and who you are as a person and try to negotiate a contract that has your protection in mind, their investments, and some leeway to not be stuck with them forever in debt if the deal goes sideways. How fair is it that you do all the work and only see a small fraction of the money you made? (provided you’re that type of artist. This stuff matters.) Go talk to some other artists who have worked with them, give a fair investigation for yourself before signing away. Don’t be so anxious to sign to a label that you end up wasting two-three years of your energy on just trying to get them to look at you.
I remember finding out all of the hassle, stress and pressure JoJo went through in order to get out of her contract with her label. It was dumb. This outrageously gifted vocalist stuck in limbo all these years because they wouldn’t let her out of her contract nor would they support her work or let her be herself. Hated it. I’m glad she’s free now. You can hear the freedom in her latest musical contributions. Amen for that. Emily King is another example. The label wanted her to be someone she isn’t. Her music sounds like EMILY now. Free.
If you’re independent, make the most of it. Train hard, work hard, surround yourself with truthful folks who love you and won’t let you do something that’s not smart. Money is wonderful but if you love it too much, you’ll get lost. As an independent artist, yea things can be expensive sometimes and it’s an uphill battle at times but guess what? It all belongs to you. You don’t owe anyone anything and you don’t have to fight for a spot. Learn all you can learn about your craft, find a mentor, get in the library and hone your skills.
If you get signed, that’s dope. Make sure it’s smart for both parties. If you don’t get signed, that’s dope. Push your limits, break the rules, and build a brand and a sound that’s going to mean something later. Build something that will teach, that will make us feelsomething. Something. And for goodness sake, tell the truth always. Whatever it is. Build it with the tools you have now. Don’t wait, because time waits for nothing.
Oh! Don’t forget to read those labels if you want to know what it’s made of. It’s right in front of your face if you open your eyes.