Last Friday, I was at Berklee College of Music’s CareerJam, which is an annual event that brings more than 50 artists and industry leaders to campus to share their expertise and connect students/alumni to pathways that will broaden the scope of their career possibilities. Amongst the events there were auditions for high-profile gigs, panels featuring successful alumni and most of all, a Skype session with Pharrell Williams to a full house at Berklee Performance Center. Pharrell is an incredibly smart artist and a really kind person, who gave us very valuable advice. So in this week’s blog post, I want to share some of his advice because I think it his advices relate to independent artists across the board. So, here are 6 pieces of advice from Pharell to independent artists:
- It is a great time to enter music industry. Pharrell said that with the rise of tools like iTunes and Spotify that empower independent artists, artists can now tell their stories directly. There is no longer a need for major record labels, or any sort of intermediary in the music industry. Artists have tools to help them directly connect with fans. And he is loving it.
- The odds are not against, but with artists this time. As an addition to the first point, he added that the odds are not against, but with artists now. What he meant is that there are 7 billion people in the world today, and in the old model of music industry, you needed the major record labels to reach out to large audiences. Now, the more music and more content you put out, the more likely it is going to be discovered by someone via YouTube, Spotify or other platforms. He also said that there is a niche for everyone and as long as you keep putting your work out there, someone will discover it.
- “Independent artists are the future, and you will make the world a better place, and you will get there. I know it” His words, not mine!
- Doubt exists in every artist’s mind, and you have to be a bit delusional to make art. This one came after a question from a student, who asked Pharell “How do you deal with doubt that you are not good enough?”. Pharrell emphasized that you just have to be a bit delusional to put your art out there, but if you are not that good at the commercial level, you will find it out in time.
- “Trust in word of mouth when marketing your music.” A student asked Pharrell if it’s better to promote your music and then to release it, or to put it out there and then promote it later. As any experienced musician would say, Pharrell answered: “It depends”. He then added that what matters is that your music fits within a current that is going on – that the audiences will listen to your music the most when their friends recommend it to them and it will be most successful if it is part of this hype.
- “You will most probably get your energy drained while juggling between art and business, but that is okay because you are doing what you love.” A student asked Pharrell how does he maintain his energy while not only juggling between art and music, but also when operating at the highest level to make great work. He said that he does get drained, just like everyone. He added that if you can pay rent and bills by doing what you love, then you have achieved your goal and he added “When you get to this point, then you never have to work a day in your life.” On the top of this, he added if you can also find a way to serve humanity, you have completed your mission as a human being.
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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new EP ‘Lines’ was released on November 2017 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com