What up Smart Rapper, I’m Rob Level, and today we’re talking about things I wish I knew before starting music, and more importantly, 10 things that nobody tells artists until it’s too late.
This business is tough. It’s a combination of setting goals for yourself and doing work on your own, plus understanding the greater landscape of music and your place in it.
Don’t let yourself get so frustrated that you give up – watch this video and make sure you understand these fundamental things you need to know about making music and about your career as an artist, before it’s too late. Let’s get into it.
NUMBER ONE: Your first songs are probably garbage – and that’s okay.
A lot of new artists think that their first song is going to launch them, be a smash hit that everyone becomes obsessed over, you chart out of nowhere. I’m sorry, but that’s just NOT going to happen.
Seriously, I’m sorry, but it’s not, and it’s a lot better for you to understand that than to make music no one likes and get discouraged. People making music at the top of the industry game have made hundreds or thousands of songs.
You can’t possibly compete with that, even if you are brilliant, talented, and amazing. Don’t beat yourself up if your stuff is just okay on the first try or in the beginning.
EVERYONE STARTS THERE. Everyone gets better. If you try, you can do it. Put aside your desire to be perfect. Music is subjective and can never be “perfect.”
It’s about what’s working for you at the time. So work with what you have now and as you keep up with it, what you’ve got is gonna get a lot bigger.
NUMBER TWO: No one makes amazing stuff all the time.
You’re going to go through different times of creativity due to the things you’re going through in your life.
You don’t need to be the best rapper all the time. You’re going to have off days. You’re also going to notice sometimes that you have the best creativity for songs and songwriting when you’re going through something bad – or right after you get through something bad.
You’ll be filled with new ideas and inspired to share them through music. It’s natural and it happens. Embrace the natural ups and downs that come with making music.
It’s just like life. Also – don’t forget – you can always go back to the songs you didn’t finish or weren’t ready, and make them better at better times for your creative schedule.
More importantly, try to keep working on your stuff even if you’re not inspired. You’ll get better technically during a time you’d be doing nothing.
NUMBER THREE: Stop giving your power away to things you think you need.
Think you need the best mic or your song will be trash? No. Think you need to understand the entire world of music and songwriting?
No. You don’t. The more you think about the stuff you don’t have, the less time you’re actually making things, learning and getting better. Your music creation process will come with learning built into it.
When you want to make something sound a certain way, you’ll go out and learn that technique, at the time you need it. Instead of over-preparing before you start, try learning as you go.
You’ll be a lot more active in your music and feel more empowered to create things without constantly thinking about how much better it could be if only you had something you don’t. Also, the more you overthink, the harder it will be to get into the relaxed flow you need to find to make music.
NUMBER FOUR: Stop waiting for someone to discover you.
Oh my goddd I can’t believe how many people secretly think this. It’s okay – I seriously think everyone thinks that deep down, they’re the most talented person in the world but no one’s noticed yet.
The problem with that thinking is that you don’t end up working as hard, because you’re waiting on that call or “discovery” by a label, and you think in the back of your head, other people are really going to be doing a lot of the work for you. Start thinking this way and you’ll find yourself putting your feet up and hustling less and less.
This is a TRAP, and don’t fall into it. At the beginning of your career you need to be putting in, probably the most energy you ever will need to – in order to get yourself off the ground. Don’t begin by taking a backseat to an imaginary manager, label or publicist. You’re in the driver’s seat.
NUMBER FIVE: What you do matters more than what you KNOW!
This is a lesson I’ve learned from running my companies and it’s an important lesson for you guys to understand too. Just because someone’s educated doesnt automatically make them successful.
You can know a lot of things and still be lazy. You can have a lot of knowledge and still do silly or dumb things. Don’t get hung up on what you know or don’t know – focus on what you can do RIGHT NOW, and what you do every day.
Every day, you have the opportunity to do the same things that educated, successful people do – starting your day right, taking care of yourself, interacting with intelligent people, being organized in your thoughts and goals. Seriously.
What you choose to do, and the choices you make every day, matter a lot more than whatever knowledge or education you have in a topic or range of topics.
You don’t have to know everything. You have to make the right choices to put yourself in the positions YOU WANT to help you reach success.
NUMBER SIX: People are the gate to everything you want in life!
Your network is almost the most important thing – and that can sound scary, and I don’t want it to. What I mean is this – no matter what, your career will be made on the opinions and actions of others.
You can’t have a Billboard Hot 100 record if no one buys it or listens to it. You can’t book a tour if the venue managers don’t give you a chance.
Like it or not, you’re going to have to figure out a way to work with people and leave a good impression. Not everyone has to like you, but you do need respect from others in order to grow your career.
Act in respectful ways to others, know your worth, and continue to get in touch with new people in the industry, even if they are starting from where you are now. You will all rise together, and each person is another fan.
NUMBER SEVEN: People won’t care until you make them.
This is a tough one, but you need to take yourself seriously, or else no one will. A lot of the time, the only way your seriousness comes across to others is by the commitment you show to your music and your career.
If you’re like, “eh, whatever, I don’t really care about the details” you’re coming across a lot worse than someone who knows their whole vision and is taking careful steps to create exactly what they want for themselves as an artist. The more YOU take it seriously, the more THEY will.
You have the power to influence other peoples’ opinions of you and your music, but you need to show them why they should respect you. Do that by really committing to your career, music, momentum, etc.
This will only bring you positive attention as everyone is always looking for the next big thing. Show them through your actions and how seriously you take it, that the next big thing is you.
NUMBER EIGHT: Embrace your strengths and weaknesses – including making music.
If you never admit to yourself that you’re bad at something, you’ll never get better. If you are terrible at writing hooks – or more importantly, have no interest in writing them – you don’t have to.
Collab with other artists to help learn the things you’re lacking. Don’t be afraid if you don’t love every part of making music. Feeling like that limits you as an artist is valid, but it’s also not a deal breaker.
Plenty of amazing music artists never wrote a song in their life and are only performers. While I do encourage people to learn how to do everything for themselves, because I think it’s practical, what I’m saying here is don’t let your limitations limit you.
By being honest with yourself about your actual capabilities, you’re going to get a lot more done and have a much better, more satisfying experience making and releasing music. So embrace who you are, and who you’re not. You’ll be better for it!
NUMBER NINE: What’s the only difference between YOU and SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE? TIME!
Everything about the world we currently live in was built by people just like us. Stop holding people above yourself and putting success on a pedestal.
You are no different from people who “make it” “have made it” and “will make it”. By thinking you’re lesser than others, you actually put yourself into positions where you get less, make less, and achieve less than others. Don’t put yourself above or below anyone.
You are equal to anyone in this world and you can achieve the things you want. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Just back up your dreams with hard work and dedication, don’t just dream without direction.
NUMBER TEN: It’s okay to be influenced by other artists.
Everyone borrows from each other, learns from each other, and is influenced by each other. Don’t worry if right now you are making music that sounds like your favorite artist.
By adopting their style, you’re practicing a certain way of creating songs and music. YOU NEED TO DO THIS to find your signature style, which is probably a combination of a lot of different styles all mixed together in your unique way.
You’re never going to figure out what works for you if you don’t try different things out, and your musical style is not going to stay the same forever. You’re going to evolve and change, bring in new sounds, leave behind other sounds.
You don’t have to re-invent the song or the genre you’re pushing to be successful. Stop trying to be so original and just play to your strengths. Write the kind of music you want to listen to, that you enjoy, even if it’s influenced by other artists’ sounds.
These are 10 things I wish I knew before I started music. I’m sharing them today because I think it’s key not to get too frustrated or overwhelmed when you’re just finding your process.
Trust me, I definitely know what it’s like to have writer’s block, or to feel like you dont have a process for creating music that feels natural and easy.
It may suck, but figuring out your little process is going to be KEY to your success in churning out good music. Use the things I talked about today to get your bearings and keep on the path to the career you want. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
I’m Rob Level, and keep hustling Smart Rapper! Ill see you at the top!