The Harsh Realities of the Music Industry by Kashy Keegan
Years ago, when I first embarked upon seriously pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter, I was naive enough to think that if you had real talent, focus and the determination to succeed that a door would eventually open. I have since learned the hard way that this is not the case and that opportunities come through how well connected you are. Sure enough, hard work and talent sustains you in the industry if you’re lucky enough to get in, but you’ve got to know someone already on the inside in order to get that all important first break. I hate nepotism but I see it so frequently in the music industry, it’s an industry built on nepotism, it promotes from within, essentially it’s like one big mafia and until you’re one of the pack, you’re kept well out of it, regardless of your talent.
Yes modern technology, more specifically the internet, has created more platforms for unknown artists to get heard these days, but these platforms are open to the whole world and are now completely saturated. In most instances, people who promote themselves effectively online, at best, become well known on the internet, but that’s where it ends for most of them. Few of them are able to make a living from their internet popularity.
In many ways, the internet has made it harder for emerging artists to get heard by the industry. Where as before the arrival of the internet, not everybody had the insight and know how to get their music heard by the right people, these days the contact details of A&R reps are plastered all over the internet and are just a click of a button away for most people. Therefore, A&R’s get inundated with submissions, of which there just simply isn’t enough hours in the day to sift through them all and so unsolicited submissions end up becoming a waste of time. The internet has only saturated the music industry. Yes competition is healthy to a degree, but it begins to limit opportunities when it becomes overwhelming and near on impossible for anyone to make a real impact anymore. Due to the sheer volume of people all chasing the same opportunities, even those with the resources and infrastructure of a major record company pushing them have trouble making an impact these days.
It’s embarrassing, but a large number of artists in the charts, and those behind the scenes running the industry, are so musically inept that I doubt if they even know the difference between a crotchet and a quaver. It reflects in the meaningless, over-produced, plastic sounding junk that is played all over modern radio and MTV these days. Talent it seems is way down the list of what is important in getting your first break. Nepotism is as rife as it ever was, perhaps even more so now that there is such increased competition.
I want to highlight an example of how nepotistic the industry is. Take the new Whitney Houston comeback album campaign being engineered by Clive Davis. Don’t get me wrong, Whitney is one of the all time greats and her talent is undeniable. However, lets not forget that, as is the case for so many others, it was nepotism that got Whitney her first break in the industry. The fact that both her aunt, Dionne Warwick, and Mother, Cissy Houston, already had inroads in the industry is more than likely to have played a big part in why she got a record deal and met Clive Davis in the first place.
Mr Davis, one of the most influential people in the industry is making sure that her new album receives maximum exposure, with no expense spared, holding lavish listening parties around the world. He will no doubt call up his good friend Oprah and book her on there to promote the album, as he does with the majority of his artists and will get her on every other prime time TV slot. It’s so transparent how they use money and influence to drum up hype and try to brainwash the masses. We could all be selling a few more records if we had the kind of influence and connections to secure that level of exposure and market reach. Another thing, notice how all the songwriting cuts on Whitney’s new album went to writers who are friends of Clive and are already well established in the industry, again it’s essentially a closed shop to outsiders. This would of been a prime opportunity to allow new talent to write songs for Whitney. Greed prevents that from happening as they keep it internal, keep it amongst their inner network and just secure their own interests.
As much as I admire Whitney, she’s already had a long illustrious career and a lengthy run at the top. There are so many artists and groups from yesteryear jumping on the comeback wagon right now that it just seems like a shameless act of greed to me. Shouldn’t the type of exposure and investment that Whitney is getting be given to new or up and coming artists who actually need the exposure and promotion to kick start their careers and don’t already have an established name to trade off?
For me personally, where I’m at right now, I believe in myself more than ever before. I write and produce all of my songs in their entirety. I am definitely on the war path and I intend to fight until my music has been heard. For too long I have sat by and watched people secure deals, not based on talent or merit, but purely because they knew people who were already established in the industry. Yes it takes hard work and talent to sustain success once you’ve got your break, but getting that break in the first place is blatantly all to do with luck and connections. No one can tell me that I don’t deserve a chance. It’s about time that artists were given opportunities based on merit and ability rather than who it is they know.
I don’t care anymore, I’ve got nothing to lose, I will keep on speaking my mind until someone gives my music the attention that it deserves! I am determined not to allow other people’s ignorance to stand in the way.
The bottom line is, no matter how talented, prepared or qualified you are, in order to get your foot in the door you need to know someone already on the inside. Some days it feels like a hopeless situation. Anyway, to anyone who is in a similar position, please don’t give up, if we do then the way that the industry is run will never change.