Most artists (and record labels) make this mistake
I’d like to share an important observation I’ve made after living in Los Angeles and working in the music industry for nearly a decade. I’ve seen the same thing happen with too many artists, and I hope that by sharing this observation with you, you can avoid making the same mistake if you ever get to that point in your career.
Who am I?
My name is Joffen Hopland and I am a music producer, drummer and musical director based in Los Angeles. I have toured all over the world with several major-label artists from Republic Records, Capitol Records, Universal Music Group, Interscope Records and Sony Music Group, and I have performed at festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
By being in the music industry I started seeing a common mistake that many artists who have not yet become major superstars make. This does not reflect the artists I have worked with, but it's rather a general observation I've made of up-and-coming artists. Before getting into what the actual mistake is, I’d first like to talk about the importance of momentum.
The importance of momentum
In physics, momentum is defined as “the quantity of motion in a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity”. So building momentum as an artist, basically means taking a lot of action over time, which leads to positive results. The more action you take, the more positive results you get, and this builds, and builds, and builds. This is experienced as momentum, and is crucial to becoming a successful artist.
How to build momentum
You build momentum by taking action consistently. As an artist that means frequently releasing music, playing shows, connecting and collaborating with other artists, producers, songwriters and other music industry professionals, building your social media channels etc. Create and share your work and who you are consistently so that more and more people will know who you are, and more and more people will get more and more excited about you.
Something I’ve seen a lot is that artists don’t release music often enough. It’s extremely important to release music frequently, including other content related to your music and your brand. If people resonate with you and your music and you are consistent, you will start seeing your numbers grow, people getting excited about you, and opportunities that you didn’t have before will start appearing. You will start seeing small wins happen more and more often, which will lead to bigger wins. You will get a feeling of “Man, all this hard work is starting to pay off”.
At this point you might even be offered a record deal from a major label. You are growing fast and A&R managers see that you have a lot of potential. You sign a record deal and you now have a whole team with a big budget behind you. You have a lot hype and your fans and everyone around you believe that you are going to be the next big star. You feel like you have made it and there is no way this can fail.
Your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
Unfortunately, this is where I see a lot of artists fail. And I don’t really mean failing at becoming superstars. Becoming a superstar is extremely hard to accomplish. Many factors have to line up perfectly for that to happen, and signing a major record deal and doing all the right things doesn’t mean you will blow up. What I mean is that a lot of artists who get to this point fail at taking full advantage of this crucial moment.
An artist might have spent several years building up all this momentum, but it won’t last forever. When artists reach this point in their careers, I’ve seen that they have a certain amount of time before the momentum starts fading away. It’s like they have one to two years where everyone is just waiting for them to blow up, but if they don’t, people start losing interest and move on to other up-and-coming artists. If they don’t strike while the iron is hot they may never have the same opportunity ever again.
This little time frame becomes the artist’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In this crucial period of time, the artist and his/her team need to do everything they can to get a hit and release it as soon as possible. The reason they need to release it as soon as possible is that if the song doesn’t do as well as expected, there is still time to release more songs, which increases the chances of one of them really blowing up and becoming a hit.
But this is where most artists, and frankly their record labels and teams, make a huge mistake. They are not urgent enough and they feel like the momentum and hype is going to last forever. They take their time, spend a year writing and doing sessions, then release the song they think is going to be a hit. But what if it doesn’t become a hit? What if the song doesn’t make the impact they thought it would? After all, you never really know what the public is going to like.
If they now spend another 6 months to a year before they release the next song, and that song also flops, people will start losing their excitement about the artist. The hype and momentum start fading away, the fans move on to other new artists. I’ve seen this so many times in the past few years, and I hate seeing artists being in the perfect position to blow up take their time and wait too long to release music.
So what are the key takeaways here? If you are an artist and you ever get to this moment I’ve been talking about in this article, try to identify it and realize that you only have a certain amount of time before people move on to other up-and-coming artists. Realize that you have to get a hit ASAP, followed by another one, followed by another one. Act fast, because if you don't, you may never get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ever again.