Every musician wants to base him or herself in buzzing surroundings that promote plentiful opportunities for creative collaboration. Therefore, it's no surprise that many artists who aren't from major cities around the country have lofty aspirations of hitting it big and moving to Los Angeles or New York City. Yet all of the motivation or talent in the world cannot hide the reality that not every artist is ready to make this next step. There are multiple factors in play that are necessary for every artist to put into perspective before making such a momentous decision. So before you pack your bags with visions of accomplishing all of your wildest dreams, be sure that you refer to this list and are honest with yourself by evaluating each factor when determining whether or not you're primed to make the big move.
1. Is your destination the right fit for your personality?
Massive cities like LA and NYC seem like musical meccas on a surface level, but the nonstop fast lifestyle is not meant for everybody. If you're from a rural area or quiet suburb, the transition to a big city can be a culture shock if you aren't sure what to expect. With this in mind, it's a wise choice to make an initial visit to whichever city you're hoping to move to. Getting your bearings early on and developing a comfort zone is vital in ensuring that your artistic creativity flourishes and, more importantly, your overall happiness as a person is at a high place.
Moving to a new city as an aspiring artist is entirely your choice, not that of friends who may be looking to piggyback off your success. Therefore, be absolutely sure that your new surroundings are right for you and your loved ones. Otherwise, your musical output may suffer as a result, and that's the last thing you want.
2. You don't "make it" as soon as your plane lands
Many artists have the naïve mindset that everything in their career will automatically fall into place once they become based in LA or NYC. This is exactly the wrong way of thinking about this kind of prospect. After you make the big move is when the work really begins as a rising musician. Artists need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to dedicate years of hard work to their craft in their new location before fulfilling their "break-out" potential. Some may experience positive results quicker then others, but life as a musician is forever a steady grind. The common cliché of "it's a marathon, not a sprint" couldn't be more appropriate for this situation. So while new artistic opportunities will certainly arise in your big music city of choice, it's still up to you and your team to execute the plan that has been in motion since the get-go.
3. Do you have both musical and personal connections in your new city?
Traveling to a foreign city as a tourist is a rather nerve-racking situation for most people. The feeling is no different as an artist with dreams of being a star. Moving to LA or NYC sounds appealing in theory, but have you developed connections with people who are already based there? Do you have means of securing affordable living accommodations? Do you have friends or contacts at the studio you want to make your primary recording spot? Have you linked up with artists in the area who are open to collaborating with you? These are just a few of many questions that you need to answer before deciding on whether the time is right to go for it all.
Also be aware that without personal career connections or extremely generous parents, it's more than likely you'll need to find some sort of day job if you don't have an adequate amount of money saved up. The opportunities in big music cities are promising, but the cost of living is matched accordingly. Ultimately, you don't want to feel like a stranger or desperate intruder in your new home, so be sure to properly plan out every detail of your artistic journey beforehand.
4. Do you have a team in place that's ready to make the move with you?
If you're moving to LA or NYC on behalf of your music career, it's quite advantageous to have a team in place that's ready to make the transition with you. Taking on a new city on your own can be quite challenging, so having a trustworthy management team by your side is extremely helpful because they'll help you settle into your new terrain from a business and marketing perspective. However, not everyone on your team may be as anxious to move across the country as you are! If it takes a little extra time to ensure that the people who have been with you from the start are situated with job/living accommodations, it's most definitely worth the wait. You might find that it's harder to gauge whether you can trust certain industry people in cities such as LA or NYC, and that increases the importance of bringing along a group of reliable teammates who are dedicated in helping you reach your artistic goals.
5. Have you truly accomplished everything you can as an artist in your hometown?
It's easy for musicians to get a bit overzealous and ahead of themselves in thinking that they've conquered their local fanbase. But in this digital age where connecting with people across the world is easy as ever, it's not a necessity to permanently leave home until you're fully established and have officially reached that next level both musically and financially. Now more than ever, we're seeing artists across all genres making a noteworthy impact right from their home cities, and that's a trend that will continue as the power of the internet grows. Therefore, it's essential that you spend enough time in your local area not only perfecting your craft, but also developing a real fanbase that will support you once you're truly ready to take that next step in your journey.
Ultimately, it's key not to rush the process, even many of your peers seem to be living the high life in LA or NYC. Spend quality time laying the groundwork of your musical career where people are closely familiar with your work, and the strength of that foundation will allow you to truly shine once the time is right to make the move you've been dreaming about.
Have you moved to a new city for your music career? Tell us your story in the comments below!
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.