When Should Singers/Musicians Move to N.Y. or Hollywood?

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This is the forth in a series of articles about relocating to Hollywood or New York to follow dreams in the entertainment industry.

Part III—Singers/Musicians

When should a singer or musician move to Hollywood or N.Y? It’s a good question. And what’s interesting about this one is we’ve finally gotten to a category of entertainment that has a nationwide televised contest that actually tries to answer that very question.

American Idol has come a long way towards helping us understand what the music industry is looking for when they look for singers to turn into stars. Of course talent is necessary, but it’s not the only thing. The vast majority of singers who progress to the final rounds are those who have already had success on the local level. They’ve learned how to perform before an audience, they know who they are—their style, their range, their genre—and by the time they are on the show, they look as comfortable as any star performing on the Grammys.

Musicians and singers have more outlets for their talent than other performance artists. A band or a singer can set up in a bar, a coffee house, a church or even all three any night of the week. And if they’re good, they’ll get paid, too. They can rent a hall and throw a concert any time they like. They can also pull a “Hustle and Flow” and set up a studio in any room lined with egg crates, pillows and blankets to record the next number one hit to sweep the nation. That’s because music has the simplest and cheapest distribution system available today. Any artist anywhere can easily record and fully produce a song on his computer using software that’s either free or cheap and get audibly the same quality many studios turn out.

After musicians create a song, they can then post the file on MySpace, Amazon or any of a dozen or more other sites and watch it sell around the world. They can even film their own viral music video and release the song through YouTube.

So when should a musician or singer move to Hollywood or New York? This one is simplest of all to answer. They shouldn’t. Stay where you are. Do your thing locally and put your stuff out online and independently. Hollywood will notice you when you’re ready and they will come to you.

Why? Well, the fact of the matter is that you have much better chance of being able to get on a stage in your hometown than you do in Los Angeles or New York. Besides that, in your hometown you already have fans. And it’s those fans who will be your most loyal customers even after you become a nationwide sensation. It’s those people you will need to help boost your popularity worldwide—to run your fansites, to brag about you on social networking sites. Hometown fans are so strong because they not only are supporting you, but they are supporting where you come from. They are representing your town to the world. You help put each other on the map.

And that’s another reason you don’t want to move to N.Y. or Hollywood. You aren’t from there. Music tends to have this local loyalty that’s much stronger than other art forms. I mean, there are New York writers, but nothing compares with the kind of slavish loyalties that music fans have.

Consider this: Jay-Z is from New York. He’s loved around the world, but he is worshiped in Brooklyn. He didn’t move to New York, he grew up there. His music is as culturally and lyrically linked to New York as Snoop’s is to L.A., and as T.I’s is to Atlanta.   Similarly Dave Matthews Band blew up in Virgina and released their album independently before sweeping the world. The same story is repeated for country, rock, and rap stars all across America. Blooming where you were planted is the rule in the music industry, not the exception. If you bloom big enough, Hollywood and N.Y. will take notice. At that time, they may call you to move. That’s when you may want to consider it.

One of the artists I interviewed in my book is a multi-platinum hip hop producer that I’ve known for years. His story is that he moved to Hollywood only because one of his friends got a contract with Death Row Records back in the 90s. Death Row found his friend in Atlanta and brought him to L.A. This artist went along. And because he was always hanging out at Death Row helping produce beats for free, he too eventually got offered jobs. So I concede there is one other time when you might want to move to N.Y. or L.A.—when you have a friend who gets a contract with a major label and wants you to come along.

But even when Hollywood takes notice, it doesn’t mean you need to move. Many producers and musicians, like writers, find their hometowns to be greater sources of inspiration for their art. Flying out to meet with other artists or agents in the industry centers will usually suffice. Keeping connected to your roots helps you stay authentic. There is nothing worse for an artist than to lose his authentic self-expression. An artist who does so risks losing the very thing Hollywood seeks to exploit to make him a star.

With all the options for performing, recording and releasing music that exists today, there is no sensible reason for any musician to move to Hollywood unless invited.

Please tell me what you think. Do you agree? Disagree? Have questions? Please share from your experience in the comments below and share this article with others. Also look for my next article on Directors and Producers in the next few days. And please check out my book for all the advice from my producer friend as well as great insights from gold-selling and Grammy nominated singers and songwriters and many other successful celebrities.

Good Luck,

TRL

Update 3/7/2013: (The 2nd edition of  What I Wish I Knew Before I Moved to Hollywood available now exclusively on Kindle for only $4.99. Get yours now. Click here. Kindle e-books can be read on I-phone, I-pod, I-pad, Android, Mac and PC with the free Kindle App.)

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12 Comments

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  2. This really helps. I was wondering whether I would have a better shot to make it in N.Y.,just b/c thats where the labels are, but this makes a lot of sense. I got more I can do here first.

    • Keep in mind that I’m not saying you won’t make it in N.Y. or L.A. if you come. I know plenty of singers and musicians who’ve been able to get something going here. In fact, one guy commented on FB that he left his home when he’d exhausted everything he could do there. That’s a good point. But that was also before MySpace really took off and started putting people on the map. So I’m just saying that its a harder road. If you’re putting your stuff out on MySpace anyway, might as well live someplace more affordable while you’re doing it.

      I’m glad the article made sense to you. Thanks for the comment.

      Good luck,
      TRL

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  4. Hey TR, You might want to point out to your readers that P. Ditty is online on Twitter and Ustream (http://www.ustream.tv/ptwittytv) telling producers to send him beats right to his studio. Hustle n Flow about ol boi tryin to get his song to the rapper. Now it’s just click and it’s there.

    • Thanks for pointing that out, Joshua. I’ll send a Tweet about it. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Your blog is so informative … keep up the good work!!!!

  6. I realize this forum is old, but as someone who came to Hollywood and found NOTHING from it, I have to agree with the above. I lost part of my soul here, and now I’m moving away in search of getting that back. I also have to add that in todays world, the music industry has all but totally collapsed on itself. It committed proverbial suicide when they decided to sue napster instead of make it part of their evolution… and thus they lost the digital war. Moving to Hollywood without a following (aka: the following you might have in your hometown) is a horrible decision, mainly because labels don’t want to sign acts without any audience recognition- they don’t have the capitol for it anymore! It used to be that major labels could sign many acts, in hopes that there would be one good apple (Jay-Z, for example) from a handful of sour ones that their A&R reps picked out.

    We have far too much technology, self-marketing ability, and know-how to rely on industry heads anyways. Stay where inspires you. Take it from me… I’m trying to get out of this cut-throat place and find it again. Best of luck to whoever is reading this down the line. I’m going to Portland!

    • Matt,
      I truly appreciate your comment and I feel your pain. This is exactly what I try to tell people in the book. The rules have changed in the music industry and it’s much safer and smarter to bloom where you are planted. Good luck in Portland, Matt. Keep me updated on how it goes.

      PS. I think it’s interesting to note as well that the producer I mentioned in this article is no longer cranking out platinum hits as he was when I interviewed him. Things have changed for the worse and he hasn’t had a hit in years. In his hometown, he could have easily bought his home cash and lived nicely on the princely sums he was paid when he was at the top. He couldn’t afford to do that in L.A. His $1.5M 5,000 square foot mansion is now just a memory. And he was one of the lucky ones.

      • I totally agree with this viewpoint. I moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in film scoring, I landed a position as an assistant to a well known composer and after working there for a time I realized that I was getting nowhere close to actually COMPOSING music to further MY career because I was spending so many hours working to advance my boss’. I didn’t have time to pursue performance or my own freelance projects (both of which I was doing as a working pianist and recording engineer in my hometown of Pittsburgh). I also realized that I would not be able to sustain my own studio in LA because I never had the money to purchase the vital musical tools needed to have a pro level home studio (something you MUST have to create industry level material). I had scored an indie film back at home that inspired me to move to LA but once I got here I knew that my own style was mine and I would prefer to pursue independent films instead of hoping to eventually score major releases. I think it’s a much better avenue to stay where you can afford living and dedicate yourself 200% on writing quality music and honing your craft. Somewhere out there noticed me and I know that future opportunities for me will be endless no matter where I live

        • Great point, Chris. Thanks for the comment and good luck with your scoring work. TRL

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