I’d like you to read the comment by ‘Pazuzu’ on this Guardian post about why Nerina Pallot still wants a record deal with a major. It’s the ninth comment down.
I would reproduce it in it’s entirety but I don’t have permission so you have to go over there to read it. The follow-ups in the later comments clarify his thoughts.
I’m not that interested in the article itself.
I met Nerina a few times many years ago when she played keys in a band called, if I recall, ‘Thumb’. Very nice she was too and clearly talented and if she feels the need for a major deal on the basis of what she says in the article, then it’s a perfectly acceptable choice.
But, it’s what Pazuzu says that works for me.
When I started our main blog, I thought that to ‘make it in music’ was to become a lauded, respected, volume-selling mainstream success. That’s where the bulk of my experience was at the time and it’s what I thought all artists wanted.
As I have written more and become more involved in ‘direct to fan’ I realise that there are a myriad ways for musicians to ‘make it’ – be that playing the music you love regardless of whether you find an audience, doing it yourself but looking for a fanbase that can financially sustain your lifestyle (whether that is modest or fantastical), or indeed the pursuit of global GaGa fame, plus a whole other load of perfectly sensible models to fit individual desires and definitions of success.
I then realised that whatever it is you hope to achieve, you should always focus on your art and the skills you have so that the expression of your art can be as complete as you are then able to make it. Practice, effort, improvement and humility will all make that art better.
And, as you improve, everything that we teach and point readers to, should help in the promotion of that art in the most effective way that the music industry and the wider modern world allows. Whether you choose to promote or not is up to you.
But, if you do, the tools and our knowledge will help.
In his comment, Pazuzu says:
I can’t figure out if you want to make music or make sales. In these times, people seem to confuse the two, as though commercial success is any marker of artistic worth. If people want to be artists of any kind they should be prepared to toil in obscurity. It’s one of those unpleasant truths life throws at us. All of us have seen tear-inducingly talented people performing in obscurity and going nowhere commercially, while mediocrity is lavished at every turn with riches, privilege, and praise. And yet artists flock to major record labels to seek validation through commerce. No artist should ever feel entitled to make a living, much less a fortune, from their art. That is a courtier’s mentality. If they do happen to “make it,” good for them, but let’s not confuse the two distinct and incommensurable things that are artistic worth and commercial value.
I do actually believe that the DIY musicians who use the direct to fan model can now build a career that is financially sustainable and might then go on to global success (which might or might not involve a deal with a major label). But I also believe that talent and persistent pursuit of artistic improvement is the starting point for those DIY musicians.
So, although I love his view of what it is to be an artist, I think we are in a golden age for music where the ‘tear-inducingly talented’ will only fail to find success (at some level) if they don’t use the tools at their disposal, or if they choose not to.
Don’t give up on the major label deal if it’s what you desire, but don’t see it as the be all and end all. Make yourself great and work to build a fanbase using what the ‘DIY musician’ industry that is beginning to appear wants to teach you. Where that might take you, who knows, but it’s better than blindly hoping that you might be good enough for 30 seconds of fame from a copycat produced bit of generic pop bollocks.