By, Wendy Day (WendyDay.com)
Lately, I’ve been asked a lot how I’ve achieved success in the music business. I realize that I’m being asked this so others can employ the steps I’ve taken to achieve success themselves. But in order for that to happen, the mindset must match mine if the steps are to work a second time. Here are the answers you have been seeking:
1. No matter what, the artists’ careers come first. They come before making money, before gaining fame, before any short term perks. It makes decisions easy because at every step of the way, I ask myself “how will this benefit the long term career of the artist?” If the answer is “it won’t,” then I don’t make the move. I apply this theory in everything I do: shopping and negotiating a deal, hiring a staff member, taking on a new client or project, writing an article or a book, etc. Every move I make benefits the long term career of some artist somewhere. Always. Therefore, my decision making process is easy.
2. My time has more value than anything. Time spent networking or meeting people on social media is time that could have been spent helping artists build their careers in the music industry. Real life interactions trump anything we can accomplish on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I, personally, don’t waste time on things that are fame based (award shows, parties, reality shows, book tours, performances, non-educational music industry events, etc) instead of benefitting artists (or me) financially. Given a choice between going on a promo tour with my artists or client, or attending the BET Awards or some other ego driven time waster, I’m doing what benefits the artist.
3. Money has value, but it’s just a tool. When confronted with an opportunity to make money, if I wouldn’t take the opportunity if there was no money attached, it has no value with money attached. Not all money is good money. If an artist doesn’t have what it takes to win, no amount of pay will make him or her win. I pass on taking the job. Now, I realize that I have a different criteria for what will succeed (for example, talent alone is not enough, the artist must have funding, charisma, a strong work ethic, and a team), but if you look at my track record, my artists succeed more often than not. In fact, the clients I’ve worked with have sold more music than Puffy, Jay Z, and Suge Knight have combined. Just No Limit and Cash Money, two of my early clients, together, have sold more music than Def Jam–and when you add Eminem, Twista, Do Or Die, David Banner, etc….well, you get the picture. Every client I’ve worked, I would have worked for free. The money is just an added plus to pay bills, rent, my staff, my lifestyle, etc. Never have I made a decision to work a project just for the money, even when I was starving. That’s never an easy choice to make, but it has always worked to my advantage. Making decisions based on money rarely works out positively.
4. Walking away is hard, but I will do it in a heartbeat. If I sense there’s some fuckery coming, or an artist is about to burn me somehow, I leave. No amount of accolades makes up for getting jerked. This industry has a large share of fuck boys (male and female) eager to jerk the next person out of something. My philosophy is that I don’t want to have to work with a baseball bat in one hand, and more importantly, I don’t want to enrich a fuck boy’s life with my skills and everything that I bring to the table to be cut out later. So I walk away. It’s never easy, but it’s always the right thing to do. I don’t care how great the opportunity seems at the time or how powerful the individual is.
5. Do what you say you’re going to do. Over deliver and under promise. These two ethics are rarely seen in the music industry, and I believe this is why I stand out. If I can’t do something, I don’t say that I will. Even more extreme, if I miss calling someone when I say that I will, I lose sleep over it. So imagine how I am when I’ve promised something bigger. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t promise things you can’t or won’t deliver. And deliver more than others expect. This is what separates the fuck boys from the professionals. Most people who get scammed out of money in this industry trust folks who can’t, or don’t, deliver what they say they will. Be professional, go the extra mile–that’s what will be remembered and discussed when folks talk about you. And they will.
6. Give love to get love. Treat everyone with respect. New people, old people, stars, wanna be’s, has-beens, assistants, bosses, everyone. In fact, I treat stars like regular people and I treat regular people like stars. I get a lot of love.
7. Know who the hottest new artists are coming up in every city. I make a mental list two ways: with budgets and without. This industry is not based on talent, it’s based on image, funding, grind that leads to buzz, and then talent. So an up and coming artist who has an investor or financial backing will go further than a super talented broke artist. If I have time, I help everyone. But if my time is limited, I help those with the biggest chance of succeeding–the artist with a budget. That doesn’t mean I take part of his or her budget, it just means that’s where I devote my time because I don’t want to waste my own valuable time. Nothing is worse than putting a lot of time into a project or an artist that doesn’t go anywhere. Time is our most valuable possession. Money comes and goes throughout our lives. Time doesn’t. It’s irreplaceable, and can’t be re-bought once it has been squandered.
8. Do what’s right, not what’s easy. Morals and ethics are what you do and how you choose to live your life. True character is what you do when no one is looking.
9. Focus on long term success not short term success. Every move you make should be to fulfill a goal that you’ve already written down. Every September, I make a list of what I want to accomplish for the next 12 months in business, my personal life, financially, for my health, and spiritually. I break down each of those goals into steps, I put blinders on, and I achieve each goal one by one, step by step. Some take longer than I anticipate, but I accomplish them eventually. Sometimes my goals change midway because better opportunities arise or I choose to walk away from a project. But I still achieve my goals after breaking them down into easy to accomplish steps.
10. Don’t be afraid to fail. I first study whatever is new to me that I want to achieve. Then I take action. I try to speak to people who are achieving or have achieved what I want to do. I read as much as I can. In fact, I read a new non-fiction book a week (I haven’t lately, but that’s because I have a new year-old romantic relationship that I don’t want to mess up, so I’m spending quality time with him when I’d normally be reading). But the point is that I take action based on knowledge of what I’m trying to accomplish. Many in this industry choose a goal, but then go down the wrong road to achieving it. You have to learn what the proper route is to achieve success and then apply it. But most importantly, you can’t be afraid to fail and you can’t let the failure stop you. Learn from mistakes. It’s sometimes easier to learn what doesn’t work than what does. When something works, repeat it.
I hope these few suggestions from my experiences will help you achieve the success you so richly deserve. The fact that you’ve gotten this far tells me you are serious. There’s enough success and wealth in the world for everyone to have some. You don’t need to hoard it, hate on those who are getting it, or hang onto it tightly. You just need to work for it, treat it with respect, and celebrate everyone’s wins, especially your own. I don’t consider myself successful, but I am aware that I’ve achieved more than most. There’s still so much I want to achieve. So I’m sure we will bump into each other along the way. And if we can ever work together, I’m open to that–just make sure you bring something to the table. I’ve already proven what I can do. Have you? Now go do it!!