There’s this myth in the music industry that packing up and moving to Los Angeles to chase your dreams is bound to result in massive success. The only problem? It’s not necessarily true.
Sure, there are plenty of artists who make the move to California each year and find themselves in the right circles, talking to the right people, and making the right moves — but that isn’t because LA is some magical place that does all the work for you. It’s because they had a plan in place, they did the work, and they made the right moves. LA on its own isn’t a miracle worker, but it can work for you if you put in your share of the effort.
If you’re looking to make the move to LA — or any big city — there are a couple things you’ll want to consider, lest you find yourself broke and burnt out. Here are four reasons that moving to LA on a whim is bound to end in disappointment.
1. It’s expensive
LA might not be as expensive as San Francisco or NYC, but it is much more expensive than say, Nashville, Austin, or most other cities that you’re probably moving from. Cost of living alone isn’t a reason not to move to LA, but it is something to consider — and I don’t just mean rent. Gas prices in California are higher than most of the US, and with all the driving you’ll do in LA, that’s going to be a factor. Likewise, groceries, bars, and restaurants are all pricier, and with all the networking and show-going you’ll be doing, it’s going to add up.
This isn’t inherently a problem, but a lot of artists that move to LA without a real game plan find that they’re working overtime to make ends meet to the point that they’re so burnt out they’re not really networking or building their career in a way that propels them forward. If you’re overworked and under-rested, you’re not going to be your best self and you’re not going to be doing your best work.
Workaround: Make sure you have a safety net of funds before you move, and try to secure a job before you go. Get a realistic number on what it will cost you to live out there monthly (including gas/food/etc) and what you’ll need to earn to make it happen.
Then, in addition to your safety net, come up with a game plan that allows you to earn that without beating yourself into exhaustion. This may mean having one or two roommates, living further outside the city, or having five months of expenses saved instead of two. Whatever it is, make a plan, and you’ll be in better shape for truly enjoying the city and all it has to offer.
2. The city is sprawling - and traffic is atrocious
Part of living in such a large city is that people tend not to want to leave their neighborhoods, which means getting them out to your show can be all the more difficult unless you happen to be playing five minutes away. Of course, this is true of any large city, but because LA is a driving city without a strong public transportation infrastructure (and let’s be honest, the traffic really is as bad as they say), getting people to drive 30-plus minutes (or even 15 minutes) away and then battle and pay for parking is an uphill battle.
Workaround: There’s one major way to work this to your advantage: Play different parts of the city throughout the month and see what sticks. Sure, you’ll have to do a bit more traveling, but you’ll ensure you’re getting in front of more people, and after a while, you’ll be able to see which neighborhoods respond most positively to your music, and focus in to play there more often. Before long, you’ll develop a strong, loyal, targeted fanbase.
3. It’s just not your market
Sometimes, you can have the look, the sound, and the message that you think LA wants and yet, it doesn’t want it. Sometimes, the reality is that you just aren’t going to work in a certain city — and that’s okay! If you’ve been in LA a while and you find it just isn’t loving you back, don’t despair, there are a lot of other music cities out there that you’re almost certain to find your tribe in. Don’t get stuck on the idea that it’s LA or nowhere. In case you’ve forgotten, there are are a lot of bands that break out of other cities.
Remember, if it feels forced, it probably is, and it probably isn’t working.
Workaround: Spend time in different cities and see which one speaks to you and appreciates you. Don’t move somewhere just because you think you have to in order to “make it.” When you find your place and your people, you’ll know.
4. It’s oversaturated
This is the one that everyone knows — LA is a really oversaturated market. This is true of many music cities, but because so many people move to LA in the hopes of “making it,” you really have your work cut out for you when it comes to getting (and staying) noticed.
Workaround: Rather than stretching yourself too thin by trying to be everywhere at once, target one or two events per week that you think you can really rock. Trying to attend every party, show, or networking event for fear of missing out will only result in burnout. By getting hyper specific about where you can be your best self and get in front of the people that can truly help move your career forward, you’ll avoid exhaustion while keeping your eye on the prize.
The other thing you can do to avoid getting lost in a sea of talent is to do a fair amount of networking before you move to the city. That way, once you’re there, you'll have a few ins already, and those people can help transition you into the parties worth being at, the people you need to know, and the places you need to be. Having that support system in place before uprooting your life will make the transition that much smoother and increase your chances at success.
As with anything, the key to success lies in the planning, the discipline, and the grit. If your heart is set on moving to LA, and you believe you’re meant to thrive there, then you should absolutely go for it! Just make sure you have a solid plan in place. LA can be an incredible city of opportunity if you go into it with the right tools and plan of action.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine, as well as a PR coach. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.