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Advice to Aspiring Musicians From Moby

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Posts: 1468
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I don't know if anyone here has heard of Moby as he produces music that is more in the dance/techno category than in the rock/guitar category but I found this on his site as a part of his journal entry. i thought people here would find it interesting.

Advice to Aspiring Musicians

i was talking to a friend today about my on-line journal and she asked me why i never offer advice to people who might be reading what i have to write.
i know i'm an opinionated loudmouth, but i've always felt uncomfortable and presumptuous offering advice to people when i don't know their circumstances.
but i do feel moderately comfortable offering general advice to aspiring musicians.
so here's my presumptuous advice to aspiring musicians(a lot of it might seem cliche'd and self-evident, but hopefully it will benefit someone out there)-

1-first and foremost: what do you love and what are you good at? are you a great singer?
a great songwriter? a great dj? you need to figure this out, and usually your friends will be able to help. and you need to be willing to accept that you might not be great at what you've chosen to do. which either means:

a-you stop doing it or do something else

b-you get better

c-you learn to work around your shortcomings(like me. i'm a sub-par singer, but yet i've managed to have some success singing on some of my songs. adversity and limitations can be overcome...).

and you need to love what you're doing. if your goal as a musician is to make a lot of money and be famous, you're probably going to end up miserable and sad and desperate. if your goal is to spend your life and your time making music that you love, then you're going to vastly increase your chances at actually having success.

2-what do you want?
some aspiring musicians want fame and fortune. others want to make obscure records that will never find a mass audience. every person has their own goals and ambitions. what are yours? identifying and understanding your goals will help you to figure out how to pursue them. if you want to be a huge rockstar but yet you only want to play 12 tone obscure jazz, well, you might have a problem. conversely if you want a nice, humble life wherein you play music for a small audience then you probably don't need to to worry about getting timbaland to produce your debut record.
please note: fame and fortune, more often than not, make people confused and miserable.
fame and fortune are, statistically speaking, almost impossible to come by. they also rarely last. and their legacy is usually bitterness and sadness. history is filled with musicians who had a minute of fame and then spend the rest of their lives saddled with resentment and bitterness. and the musicians who are able to sustain their fame-and-fortune usually end up drug addicted and in trouble and jaded. fame and fortune are incredibly dangerous and volatile entities, and should almost be seen as liabilities when/if you encounter them.
so, ask yourself: what are your goals and what do you want? if you aspire to fame and fortune, be careful.

3-i don't want to sound too cliche'd, but 98% of the time you're well advised to be yourself. play music that you love. wear clothes that you love. write lyrics that you love. let's look at norah jones, for example. or kurt cobain.
both artists have/had tons of integrity and success. they also looked and sounded nothing like the successful artists at the time they were making their successful records. when norah jones was making her first record the charts were filled with britney's and christina's and beyonce's. how successful and happy would norah jones have been if she'd cast aside the music that she loved to try to look and sound like everything else on the radio/mtv? same with kurt cobain. before nevermind was released the charts were dominated by poison and skid row. should kurt cobain have move to l.a and teased his hair and worn spandex and written 'cherry pie' knockoffs? should norah jones have tried to make pussycat-dolls-esque records?
no, of course not.
so don't try to look or sound like everything else on radio/mtv. trends pass very very quickly.
if you look and sound like the current trend then in about 6 minutes you will look and sound like last years trend(remember all of the limp bizkit imitators?).

4-play live. you have to. and you have to be good at it. the only artists who have long and successful careers these days are those who can play live and develop a live following. a lot of very successful artists have learned not to rely on radio play and record sales in order to have a life playing music. the best artists have always been artists who can play live. there's almost no way to get around this, especially not in todays climate where revenues from record sales keep dwindling.

5-try, if possible, to learn a lot of different skills. learn how to play 3 or more instruments.
learn how to produce and engineer. learn how to read and write music. learn how to dj. learn how to score films. the more you can do, the better the chances that you'll be able
to have a long and happy life as a musician. and if you know how to play multiple instruments and engineer a recording session you'll not only have good skills but you'll be better able to make the records that you want to make, and you won't be beholden to other people's expertise.
what else are you going to do with your time? instead of watching tv learn how to play a new instrument. instead of playing video games learn how to use pro-tools. instead of going skateboarding learn how to read and write score.

6-know your way around a contract.
some legal advise from me(keeping in mind i'm not a lawyer)-

a-the shorter the deal the better. if someone says 'i just got a 10 album deal!' that means that they've just sold themselves into pernicious slavery.

b-keep your publishing whenever possible. record companies are now trying to get the rights
to artists publishing and merchandising. keep these if you can. especially publishing. and never accept a publishing split wherein you get less than 75% of the income.

c-some standard percentages:
agents get 10%.
managers get, at most, 20%.
record companies get between 75%-85%.
publishers get between 10% - 25%.
keep your deals SHORT.
the only time to have a long deal is if the other person/company guarantees you something.
if you have a record deal wherein the record company GUARANTEES you that they'll release every album specified in the contract then you should sign it. most long deals only serve the interest of the record company/publishing company/merchandiser/etc. and get a good lawyer.
don't be a cheapskate when it comes to good legal advice.
but make sure that you agree upon the lawyers fee beforehand. some lawyers work on a percentage basis. some on an hourly basis. some on a fixed fee. try to get a fixed fee if you can.
most lawyers are honest but also self-interested and they'll try to make as much money as they can.
it's your job to be smart and monitor them and their billing and their work.
if a collaborator/manager/label/etc gets you exclusively, then they better be giving you something great in return. 'great' is open to interpretation. it could mean money or guaranteed services or, ideally, a combination of the two.
again: get a good lawyer.

7-don't hire friends or family. never, ever, ever.
this is just a given. i won't even explain, except to say that it will end in tears for all involved.

ok, that's a lot to digest...
maybe i'll write more if anyone's interested.
i hope that some of this will be of help to any aspiring musicians out there.

Posted : 11/03/2007 2:43 pm
Posts: 1675
Noble Member

Looks like some sound and grounded advice there. Interesting reading.


When my mind is free, you know a melody can move me
And when I'm feelin' blue, the guitar's comin' through to soothe me ~

Posted : 11/03/2007 2:58 pm
Posts: 215
Estimable Member

I dig a lot of Moby's work. That sounds like great advice...especially the first couple parts. I think I'm still at the "figure it out part." I want to sing and I think I sing ok, I just need practice with breathing and learning to accept that I can't sing certain notes and find a workaround for it. I'm also interested in playing drums, but living where I do, its not gonna happen (apt). Bass even sounds interesting...just don't want to get in over my head where I'm all over the place. Ok I'm done hijacking this thread. Great find Pearl!

Posted : 11/03/2007 5:45 pm