I was about to update my music website (www.gracimusic.com) and then the thoughts that led to this article came to mind. So here are my personal experiences with these aspects of the singing business, and hopefully will serve as advice to whoever wants to take it on board.
Biographies & Promos
Intending to renew my biography on my web and the way I wanted to portray myself as a singer to the public, and as I started typing the ‘highlights’ of my career I was stopped on my tracks by my own hands (as it often happens every time I have to send a CV somewhere). Hold on a minute. I have done so many things, if I write every single thing on my bio, the list is going to be endless and nobody is going to bother reading it. So, what shall I write? shall I write something that is relevant for me or something that is socially accepted as being relevant? something that could be appealing because it involves a famous venue, event or client, or something significant to me because I changed someone’s life with my singing, at an unknown tavern? What is more important? And, for the purposes of my business, who is going to care? what type of clients am I going to attract if I write one thing or the other? Also, on what parameters shall I base my biography: on the events, the venues, the client I sang for, the money I got paid? or shall I base it on how I felt, the meaning of the repertoire that night, the effect I had on the people who came to see me, how that affected my interpretation of the music, how many and which musicians where in the band, was the bond with them good or not so good and did this influence the performance? The Annabells’, the Dorchester’s, the Hilton’s, what do these places make me become when I step on them, that I am not already? There is nothing there more than there is at the local pub or community centre. All what matters is inside you. Being loyal to myself is always the answer for me. Experience tells me that people will know who you are when you openly say so, nobody has time for mysteries or guessing. So, say who you are, as different as that may be, because showing how unique you are will make you stand out in a genuine way, simply because there is no greater truth than being truthful. Based on this, if you ask me what I did, I decided not to say much about the actual events and just kept what I consider the essence of it, without going too deeply. I just followed my intuition, as I explain here. It might not look like a fancy bio, but I am okay with it, because it’s me. See it here.
Social & Media
My first social media profile was on MySpace.com, at the time it was a revolution for musicians and for the music industry. It was promising, exciting, you could see your colleagues and musician friends’ updates, their latest music and photos, it had a nice feeling to it. Then Facebook came in, I remember a friend of mine telling me about it: “you have to open an account, everyone is on it!”, at the time I didn’t understand it: “what is the deal about this thing, where everyone is pretending to be friends when you don’t know each others and why is everyone posting private irrelevant things in the open? what is the purpose of it all?” and of course it was all linked with the Big Brother and reality TV programs: be as famous as you can be, doing nothing. The age of nihilism. The great fall. I too got trapped into that wave and of course opened a Facebook account, and a page (MySpace disappeared and all the musicians shifted to FB). At one point I had around 8,000 followers. Of course, more than 75% of them (being optimistic) were unknown people who ‘liked’ my posts but were nowhere to be seen at my gigs or purchasing my music. The most interesting of all were the agencies and promoters telling me: “you need to have at least 10,000 followers in order to play here”. What?! are you okay or have you sniffed limestone?… At the time that was outrageous. To cut the story short, I closed those accounts, and Twitter. But I kept Instagram and YouTube, just in case. So, as much as I dread it, I am guilty of it, guilty of having to adapt to a system I do not agree with (because if I am not on social media, I disappear from my circle of friends, family, my work, and the entire universe), and instead, I try to use it as positively as I consider. I am not a person who has a cameraman attached to her 24 hours to document every single thing that I do. It’s not my priority to tell the world how cute my nightgown is or how well my headphones fit my head while I am recording at the studio. I don’t believe that music fulfills its purpose when it’s portrayed from such a documented account of events. To me, Music, same as everything else in life, should be listened to at the right moment to have the right impact: when it’s needed or when it happens, and not as a result of being bombarded with social media or marketing of any type. It loses its purpose otherwise. The strength of it goes away the same way intentions get lost the more meaningless words are used. The same way wishes aren’t granted when we push the energy towards them.
Think about what is relevant to you, what fulfills you? Does having 8,000 followers sort you out? I don’t think so, you still need to have real connections with people, go to a real job, have real hobbies, go to the gym, sing, move, meditate, eat, etc. Living in a virtual reality is not very plausible – so far. We are still experimenting how to live virtually, so don’t cling to it too tightly, and employ your energies on things that will really make you grow, such as: being in introspection with your guitar or piano, getting inspired to write music/lyrics, practising your voice and finding out more about your possibilities, so that you can share your discoveries with the world. And when the world meets the essence of who you are, without pushing things too far (and dying while trying), things will happen. Being trendy is not going to save your life. Nothing which isn’t yours is going to be taken away from you; it will come at the right time.
Identity & Boxes
I keep a diary where I write all the places I have performed at since I started singing, including all the dates, venues, clients and relevant data pertaining to every gig. Needless to say, considering my first official gig was in 1994, you will imagine that diary (or rather, set of diaries) is a big one. Now, how does this affect people’s perception of myself as a singer? Say for example, you don’t know me at all, and I say to you: “I am a singer“, you will probably say: “oh, nice! go on, sing something” (we all get that one, along with “do you get paid for it?”). Aside from that, you’ll say: “oh, what type of singer, what do you sing?”, and my reply to you will be: “I sing anything, any style, whatever”. So you might think one of these two things: 1) that I am not a professional singer, because people say when you embrace many styles you are not really good at them (that’s not always the case, you can be good at a few things, and beat all the so-called ‘specialists’). 2) You might think that I am a show off. I am not perfect, but I have been given roles and jobs at various styles, succeeded at them, and got celebrated for it, without a problem. The thing is, when you love something and you do it with your heart, and are prepared for it technically, it shows, people see it, and buy it. You will get people who’ll try to put you down (I have my share of this). Teachers, music industry tycoons, colleagues. Ignore that.
Every time I was about to, or when I got signed by a music company (it must be mentioned, all of them managed by the masculine gender), I was always required to be classified in a box. Silence. I was never wanted for who I really was. Nor were they interested in knowing who I was. They wanted me to be a certain way. And when it appeared that they were listening to me and my wants, it was again just to tick one of their boxes, and they would very skillfully guide me into believing that their suggestions were the right thing for me and my needs, bringing me flowers and gifts on the side. When you are a singer, or an artist in general, expressing your art through your skill (which in this case is singing), you are so because that’s your essence. That is who you are. It comes from elsewhere, not from this reality. You bring ‘that thing’ from beyond and translate it into this language, which is music/voice, through your inspiration, and this is SACRED. It is DIVINE. So. Never. Allow. Anyone. To. Put. You. In. A. Box. For. The. Sake. Of. Money. Or. Fame. Eventually, it will take a toll on you, you will lose it and resort to drugs, depression, suicide, or things that will take you away from yourself. Again, be truthful to you. This is what will get you to places. Not physical places. “Inside-you” places, that will make you a happy person 🙂