by Robert Flis / May 4, 2020
It’s a weird time to be in the music industry. With concerts a thing of the past and live-streaming becoming the new norm, things have changed drastically almost overnight. Fortunately, this is also a time of great opportunity for musicians and industry professionals, and our most recent Music Industry Talks guest, Steve Pageot, shared his input on how artists can respond to our new reality and come out on top. Steve is a Grammy Award-winning producer who has worked with legendary talents like Aretha Franklin, Snoop Dogg and countless others. We asked Steve some questions to help aspiring artists, musicians and industry professionals to put their best foot forward during these uncertain times.
What are the top 3 skills you need to make it in the music industry?
The top 3 skills are: being good at what you do, being willing to learn (because you could be great, but there’s always something that you don’t know), and putting your ego to the side. If you have those three things, you’ll be set to go.
What are the top 3 mistakes people make that hold them back from finding success?
The big one is people not following up. If you go to an industry party and somebody gives you their card, you need to hit them up within the next day or two. If you don’t, you might lose a chance of them putting you onto a project. Also, when you meet people, you’ve got to say something that’s going to make them remember who you are. Like, let’s say the person has a red sweater on. Just make sure you say ‘oh, I love your sweater, where did you get it?’ Just something aside from what you really want to talk about, so the next day when you send them your email, you’re like ‘I’m the kid who gave you a compliment about your red sweater' and then, you go into what you really want to talk about. Networking and follow ups are two things that are very important. The third thing is not to do things behind people’s back. Don’t step on people’s toes. You know the industry, in a way, is very small. You say something bad about somebody - guess what? Within the next five minutes that person will know about it because there’s somebody who knows somebody who told them. And let’s say you and I go out to an industry party, and you introduce me to somebody big who’s part of your contacts. I would never go behind your back and be like ‘Yo, I’m the producer that so and so introduced you to, can I get a meeting?’ That’s a no no. You don’t do things like that. You know why? Because he doesn’t know you from a can of paint. You’ve got to respect the people who put you in that position. There are a lot of unwritten rules in the music industry and no one is going to teach you them, you just need to know them.
What are things you look for when working with an artist?
The work ethic. I need to know that you’re hungrier than I am because I can’t want it more than you want it for yourself. If I’m going to be up until 5 in the morning, I need to know that you’re going to be up until 8 in the morning because if I’m going to be putting in work for you, I need to feel like we’re both going in the same direction. I’ve worked with a lot of artists that to them, it was just a dream. They don’t understand that there’s a lot of work that you need to put in, and that it can take 10 years. If I feel like I’m doing everything and I’m not getting any return, I just won’t feel like working with you. That’s one part of the equation, and the other one is natural talent. As soon as you start singing, I need to feel goosebumps. If I don’t feel those goosebumps then I’m not going to want to work with you.
What’s your advice for industry professionals and musicians that are struggling right now?
My advice is to not get discouraged. We’re going into a new lifestyle. Everything’s about to change so you need to make sure you’re ready to make the switch. Now everything is going to be online. We’re seeing a lot of bands doing livestreams from their homes, and starting to charge for their shows. So there’s going to be a lot of different ways of making money. Facebook is about to allow musicians to charge people to watch their performances, which is great. You’ve got to get creative, there are so many avenues, like, you can start writing music for TV or film. You’ve got to educate yourself about the music industry also. You don’t want to start preparing yourself when it’s time to get prepared - you need to prepare yourself before it’s even time. You’ve got to be a visionary and not get discouraged. I know it’s easier said than done, but the more negative you get about the situation, the harder it’s going to be for you. You need to remind yourself that positive things will come out of it. It's also important to keep expanding your network. The way you used to do things - you’ll have to change that around and start networking more online. Your social media pages need to look like money. Whatever content you’re putting out, has to reflect what you want to be or where you’re trying to go with your career. If you’re putting a song out on Facebook, SoundCloud or Instagram, you need to make sure it’s top notch material. Don’t worry about the numbers. Let’s say you put out content and you only get maybe 20 likes, don’t worry about it. Keep putting out quality content and the numbers will follow. This is the time to be unique, and to develop your skills further.
Steve’s sense of optimism is certainly uplifting and helpful in a time where the landscape of the music industry is rapidly changing. If there’s one thing we’ve taken away from his message it’s that with the right attitude, you can overcome any situation.
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