I have a friend who’s been burning the candle on both ends chasing his dream.
I don’t think he sees it as a sacrifice. He loves what he does, he’s worked hard to get to where he’s at, and he’s achieved a degree of success in his endeavors as a teacher, producer, and artist.
In his own words, he’s achieved “mid-tier” status with Spotify. The reality is, if you’re making any money on Spotify, you’re doing well. So, he’s correct in his self-assessment.
But the only way he’s been able to get to that point is by reinvesting into his music. Heavily. His takeaway isn’t anything to write home about.
“Making money in music is hard,” he shared with me in one conversation.
I know well what he’s talking about. I don’t just have personal experience or anecdotal evidence to back it up. I’ve looked at the cold, hard numbers and have seen exactly how hard it is to make anything close to a living wage from Spotify.
But I must emphasize, from Spotify.
I know how heavily the industry is invested in Spotify. It trickles all the way down to the smallest of independent artists attending music industry conferences in hopes of finding their own path to success in streaming.
I still remember when Canadian blue-eyed soul artist Remy Shand came out of hiding after a long absence to begin releasing music under the pseudonym Canary, and eventually Remy Shand.
I was lit up by what I heard, and I think it’s one of the reasons I got so excited about releasing singles and EPs again in 2016 and beyond. Shand was releasing sketches and demos, and that gave me the courage and permission I needed to do the same. Showing up consistently became my new M.O., not trying to do it right.
“If I just released more prolifically, maybe I’d have a chance at making a decent income in streaming too,” I thought to myself. Of course, I had no idea whether Shand himself was earning anything either.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s human.
And even though releasing more prolifically will give you a better chance at growing your Spotify following, it’s a long road to the bank. Plus, it’s the furthest thing from strategy, especially if you don’t have other pieces of the artistic career puzzle already slotted together.
The recipe for artistic success is out there, and it is possible to reverse engineer it, but the couch to big screen dream tends to blind young artists from the realities of exploitation. As I shared yesterday, finding a good musician coach is not as straightforward as following the first face you see on Instagram, unless you’re especially lucky. Shills and charlatans, sadly, are often the most visible.
There’s a bridge we need to cross as artists. Unfortunately, it’s not easy because it requires a paradigm shift.
Having gotten to the other side of it, it feels to me like a quick jaunt across a suspension bridge at the park. But to artists who’ve come this far trusting the often-empty promises of the music industry, it will appear more like a long, lonely, treacherous journey across a tightrope over the Grand Canyon.
If I could collaborate with any musician in the world, living or… living, I would pick the following individuals to create albums with.
Nuno Bettencourt is most known for his work with the Funk Metal band Extreme during the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s and their hit song “More Than Words”.
He has since been involved in a variety of bands and projects, including The Mourning Widows, DramaGods, Satellite Party and more recently, Rihanna. He is considered one of the most accomplished rock guitarists alive.
I think it would be awesome just to trade riffs and learn from the best. Guitar collaboration projects don’t always measure up to the hype they create (I’m definitely not comparing myself to the masters), but I think Nuno and I could create some great hooks, explore some new musical territory and maybe even develop some twin guitar licks.
Nuno is super versatile, so no matter how ambitious we got in terms of scope or genre, I’m sure we could come up with some great music.
Santilli is a Canadian R&B singer and multi-instrumentalist.
I’ve always loved the sound of a Fender Rhodes, and when I think of Rhodes players, I can’t help but think of Ivana Santilli (and she has a great, smoky, vintage-y voice besides).
If we collaborated, I’m sure we could cover a lot of ground, from jazz to soul to funk to R&B, but I think it would be just as cool if we experimented with electronica and rock.
Another cool angle would be to write a few stripped-down, acoustic guitar and keyboard numbers.
Remy Shand is another Canadian R&B/soul singer and multi-instrumentalist.
It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that I developed my falsetto voice while repeatedly singing to Remy Shand’s only official release, The Way I Feel (affiliate link).
I know that Remy is a versatile guy, and whatever he contributed to the project would be nothing short of stellar (bass, keyboards, vocals, etc). Undoubtedly we could make some great grooves and harmonies together, and since I already have a few songs that are stylistically similar to Remy’s, we could flesh those out as well.
Lead vocalist of Canadian melodic rock band Harem Scarem.
I’ve always loved the melodic rock/power pop genre, and I can’t think of a better vocalist to collaborate with in that genre than Harry. I don’t necessarily have a great voice to carry a rock tune, but Harry does, and I’m sure we could come up with some great harmonies too.
Harry is also an accomplished studio engineer, and has a great ear for vocals and instruments.
Guitarist of Canadian melodic rock band Harem Scarem.
Pete Lesperance is quite easily one of the best guitarists in the melodic rock genre. He also writes songs, plays keyboard and sings.
At one point, Pete was collaborating with Our Lady Peace’s Mike Turner under the name Fair Ground, and that was a great project with a different feel from Harem Scarem’s music.
I’m sure that no matter what type of music we created together, it would be melodic and hooky.
Lead vocalist and chief songwriter for Canadian punk rock band Marianas Trench.
I like practically everything the Trench has ever done. Unlike many bands in the same genre, they back their music with talent.
Aside from creating some awesome hooks, I think it would be awesome if Josh and I did a concept album.
Again, vocals have not always been my strong suit, and I would love to work with other vocalists who could help me realize some of my musical visions.
Besides that, I’m sure Josh and I could create some great music plain and simple.
Lead singer of the Dan Reed Network.
The Dan Reed Network was a largely overlooked funk rock/electronic rock band from the 80s, but they had a lot of catchy songs with great hooks.
I’m a sucker for rock with a groove (Pat Travers, Rick Derringer, Lenny Kravitz, etc.) and I think we could make some great groove rock together.
But even if we went in more of a laid-back acoustic direction, I would be elated.