I think, for the most part, I am very skilled at what I do, though I could always be much better. However, the issue for me is not really how much better I need to get as an artist. I will have plenty of time to practice my acting and my mixing and production skills. I get better each day just by applying those skills. My biggest challenge lies with patience.
As a perfectionist, I always want to do everything right. I can’t settle for anything less than the best. Every artist knows that you can’t become a master at something overnight, otherwise nobody would revere and respect talented artists.
However, I am one of those people who loves the process of getting better, but also hates the thought of never being as good as we wish we were. When I was first starting out as a DJ, I was always so frustrated at the fact that gigs didn’t just appear as soon as I started announcing that I was a DJ. I just wanted to play for an audience. I wanted to dive right in without having any experience in dealing with negotiations and catering to various artists. My music library at the time was limited to “uhntz uhntz” club music. I became very bitter and annoyed that I had no gigs. That wasn’t just starting out, either. Even so much as a couple of months ago, I was going through the same slump. I just couldn’t figure out why every other DJ I knew seemed to be getting gigs and record deals and I wasn’t.
I realize now that I was being impatient. I’m still very young, and I’m still starting out, and yet now I’m playing at a 5-stage, 55 DJ festival. Looking back, I can’t believe I’ve gotten as many gigs as I have for only being a DJ for 2 years. I’m already signed to Synbot Records for crying out loud. I’ve been producing for less time than I’ve been DJing. I’ve always had an ear for the dynamics of electronic music, but for the longest time I lacked the technical skills to apply that artistic talent. Once you start something, it takes time to become established at it.
Impatience has been the biggest problem of mine. I try to push through when I need to be happy with how far I’ve come. But my saving grace has been persistence. I have given pitches, demos, phone calls, business cards, and everything else there is to booking agents, club owners, DJ agencies, and record producers. No matter what, no matter how much of a slump I get in sometimes, I always find a way to climb out and keep going. So far it’s done me pretty well. If I really want something, I’ll keep on trying in every way possible. That’s how you let people know you’re serious. I’ve gotten turned down before, and then I kept working. I tried again, I got turned down. I kept trying, and eventually, the people realized I had talent and was serious. Now I have a record deal and I get gigs.
Another thing that’s helped me that I still need to improve on is networking and maintaining relationships with people in the field. I can network. I reach out to everyone in the scene who I can. I promote and advertise mine and others’ events. The only difficulty is keeping up with all these people. One has to show others that he truly cares about them and what they do, and that he’s not just getting to them for a job opportunity. I think I need to find the relationships that truly matter the most, and invest more in those.
Finally, contracts and taxes. I’ve learned a lot this semester about taxes and contracts. I never realized that so many expenses can be deducted from the net income when filing taxes. I have always been worried about how I would handle taxes when I’m on my own, and now I feel much more enlightened about it. I still don’t know enough, but I’m at a point where I can understand what I as an artist need to do. More importantly, I need to spend more time on contracts and spreadsheets. The business side of art is something I’ve overlooked. Now that I’ve learned more about it, it makes me want to get out there and make more money. I feel much more in control of my business when using a contract to negotiate terms. I no longer have to worry about getting shorted on pay or bailed on for an event.
In all, I just need to be patient. I have to remind myself that over time, experience and knowledge will come, and that sometimes mistakes are necessary to learn how the business works. I’m still very young, and my career has barely started. And it’s off to a good start so far, so things are all uphill from here. Inspiration will come, money will come, gigs will come if I just keep doing what I’m doing and working hard.