The following is an email I received from Brad C. of Huntsville, Kentucky and it speaks of an issue that’s relevant to people in all creative fields:
“I’ve been sending my songs and publicity materials to managers and agents in the hope that I’ll find someone who can take over my music career and bring me to the next level. So far, there’s been no response. I’m the artist, I’m so sick of promoting myself…”
You’re not alone in harboring this dream of having someone who can “take over.” I get it. You see yourself as the artist and feel somehow slighted by having to do the things you think a manager should be doing for you. Somehow you got it into your head that there’s some person out there who can as you’ve said, take you to the next level. One piece of good news is that such a person does exist. The other piece is that — that person is you.
Those of us (myself included) who’ve been in the undesirable place of waiting for a career-savior probably came to this misguided notion by watching some movie or reading some book. Maybe we heard about what Colonel Tom Parker did for Elvis — how he took this raw talent and turned it into something that everyone noticed. Well, here’s the thing about Elvis and every other successful person you’ve ever heard about: They turned themselves into stars. They created so much momentum through their own hard work, daring, experimentation, and diligent practice that they were then able to attract a manager (and everyone else.) Remember, when the Colonel signed Elvis in 1955, he was already playing to crowds of screaming girls. He was already a bona fide star-in-the-making, with a recording contract and a sound of his own.
It’s important to note the unwavering order of events.
First: the artist develops himself or herself.
Second: the manager arrives.
The manager doesn’t make anyone into anything. Managers come around when there’s something to manage (read: money to be made.) They appear in droves, when and only when, there’s movement of some kind to exploit and then they build on the success that the artist has already created. In other words, they don’t create heat; they project the heat that you’ve created. Rather than focus on looking for someone to sweep you up into stardom, it behooves you to start a process of introspection to assess whether your work has the ability to distinguish itself.
Start by taking out a piece of paper and giving yourself five minutes to list your strengths. See if by the end of this short exercise, your creative offerings add up to something that no one else has. If in fact, you determine that you have a voice, or a set of songs, or a stage presence that no one else on earth can deliver, then you’re on your way. All you need to do is keep going on the path you’re already on. It’s almost certain you’ll be successful. If on the other hand, you’re not 100% sure that what you have to offer is brilliant and original, you’ll know you need to labor over the fine details of your work until it’s easily distinguishable from everyone else’s. Keep this in mind as well:
A young composer once went to a maestro to ask his opinion of a piece of music he’d written. The maestro said, “Your score is brilliant and original, unfortunately what is brilliant isn’t original — and what is original isn’t brilliant.” Ouch.
The time you take writing to a manager could be better spent writing a new song or making some other valuable musical discovery. I’m not saying that by being an amazingly talented hermit you’ll one day be discovered by some osmotic process. You will have to engage managers at some point. I’m only suggesting that right now you may be concentrating too little energy on honing your work. Spending your time looking for someone to lift you into a place you might not deserve to be at this time will only frustrate you. Worst of all, it takes you totally out of control of your destiny.
More good news:
You have volition. You can make changes to your work. You have a say over your artistic output. You have the ability to exercise your will. Hanging around waiting for someone else’s approval takes you out of the driver’s seat and causes you to mistrust yourself. On the other hand, doing things to improve the quality of your work can only make you feel good about yourself — and feeling good about yourself will give you the strength. Strength you’ll need to endure the challenges of your journey.