One of the most important things that I tell young artists is to embrace their status as a business of one – a sole proprietorship, if you will. It may not always be that way, but when you’re first starting out and trying to build your brand, you have to face the fact that no one besides your parents cares if you sink or swim – and even they may secretly wish that you became an accountant like your cousin, Earl.
The key is to proudly don the titles of founder, CEO, marketer, sales team, and vile henchman. This is no easy task. It takes a great deal of commitment, research, stick-to-itiveness, tenacity, guts, and humility. My suggestion is to find a decent money job that doesn’t completely suck your soul, and then get creative.
As you probably already know, one of the best things you can do is put yourself out there. It’s often said in marketing that a product needs to make seven impressions before ingraining itself in the consumer psyche. The same is true for your music. Get in front of people, make connections, and shout your brand from the rooftops – or treetops, depending on your locale.
Fortunately, there are many excellent resources and organizations out there that exist solely to help you, the artist. I’m talking grants, residencies, masterclasses, crash pads, support groups, and much more. Here’s a few that I find particularly cool:
Gone are the days of the stowaway! You can actually apply with Amtrak for a roundtrip writer’s grant. These are long routes that allow you to peep the American landscape while scratching out some boss lyrics.
When I was a kid, the greatest dare at the movies was to see how many of these pucker-inducing jellies you could cram in your mouth at once. Flash forward 20-something years, and it turns out that Sour Patch Kids are indie fans. So much so they’ve created free crash pads in Brooklyn, Austin, and Hollywood. Think The Real World meets Airbnb. In exchange, all you have to do is post your stay on your social accounts. You know, here a tweet, there a tweet, everywhere a Periscope.
The YMCA is decidedly not cool (no offense). Conversely, the 92nd Street Y is completely rad. In addition to the many cultural programs and performances offered, 92Y provides a series of masterclasses with some truly outstanding musicians. Not only is a masterclass an opportunity to snag some new skills, but it's the perfect spot for you to gain exposure with peers and and least one top professional in your field.
These guys really get it. They are completely committed to understanding your needs and providing the money necessary to really help – from $250 to $15,000. Check the site for application guidelines, bookmark the page, do it year after year. A little money can go a long way when you’re trying to serve your art and creativity.
Fender brings music to our communities by awarding grants to music education. This may not directly benefit your pursuit, but it could be an incredible opportunity to give back. The easiest way is to donate, but if there was a wonderful music educator or program that fostered your talent, perhaps you’d like to nominate them to receive a grant! It always pays to give back.
And now that we’re talking philanthropy, here’s a chance to really get involved. I think we can all agree that music is wrapped in some incredibly beautiful magic – the power to connect, to communicate, to bridge the divide. Musicians Without Borders travels the globe to spread peace and creativity through music. If you’re looking to truly make a difference, perhaps this is your calling.
Jonathan Hack is a Brooklyn resident, musician, writer, and ping pong aficionado. His career in the theatre has spanned acting, music direction, production, carpentry, and more. As a marketer, he has worked with major brands in music and fashion. He is a proud member of AEA and NATS. Follow him on Twitter @writerninja and on Instagram @jonnyhack.