(L-R) Teedra Moses, Marcelle Araica and Nicole Henry
Photo: John Parra/WireImage
Here's How They Did It: 14 Music Industry Lessons Learned At The GRAMMY U Conference
Miami's vibrant arts neighborhood of Wynwood is known for gathering tourists and locals alike. But instead of flocking to the district for its street art and murals, students and industry professionals came together recently in Wynwood for this year's 2019 GRAMMY U Conference hosted by the Recording Academy Florida Chapter.
The panels consisted of local and international acts, each bringing their experience and knowledge of what it takes to create and sustain a career in music.
Although everyone's path is different, technology and social media have created bridges connecting and empowering industry professionals – but there are also challenges and experiences no one can prepare you for. From overcoming doubt and expressing musical ideas to following your true self and dialing in visual branding, here are some of the top takeaways, advice and lessons learned from the various sessions of this year's conference. Take notes!
Seeing the Sound: An Artist’s Guide to Visual Branding
"Listen to your tribe."
Cuci Amador, singer/songwriter of Afrobeta encouraged attendees to keep their ears and minds open. One of the best things about being in the music industry is the culture of collaboration music fosters. A close group of friends, family, or mentors who can give you honest advice on your material can be a powerful creative tool. Keep an open mind to their feedback and ensure that those you let into your tribe have your best interest at heart.
If you don't already have a friend or a tribe, now is a great time to create one. You can leverage social media and Facebook groups to meet other creatives and mentors on your journey. Make sure to create a consistent and effective exchange of energy; no one wants to be the person always asking for favors or advice but never reciprocating.
"The moment you're yourself, everything will happen for you."
Jackie Cruz, artist, activist, actor and songwriter spoke to the fact that there's nothing more special than showcasing who you are to the world. With social media, it's easy to get inspired by others look and sound, but no one else can be you. Even if your social media following starts out small, people gravitate toward authenticity.
"Don't confuse consistency with authenticity, and don't take consistency too far. Authenticity is what makes a powerful brand."
Stephanie Guerrero, creative content director, Universal Music Latin Entertainment, explains that owning your own story is vital when defining your image online and via social platforms. She suggests using the 70/30 rule as your standard, where 70 percent of your social posts should be personal, and 30 percent of your social media posts should be promotional, a formula her team uses when managing some of the industry's biggest artists. They've learned people will invest in people. If your supporters like you as a person first, their support is guaranteed when it comes time buying into your talent and material.
"Don't be ashamed of what triggers you to be creative"-
Music video director & content creator Milcho also weighed in with some creative wisdom. Before you make a smash hit or a viral video, you have to go through the beginning stage and create content that most people will never hear or see – and that's okay. Milcho said this is an essential part of the process, called "the practice." Don't be afraid to create and show your work to peers and mentors; it's necessary to share because it allows you to learn through honest feedback on your work. It's also okay if you decide not to release your "beginners" content. It's about what makes you feel connected to your music and art.
Artist Spotlight: Mau y Ricky
Moderator and Latin GRAMMY nominated artist Manu Manzo sat with the brotherly duo to hear their story and find out what helped them build their careers while keeping themselves together.
"Surround yourself with people that will bring you back to earth."
In an industry that is known for its flash and indulgence, it's easy to get carried away and become a 'diva,' but it's essential to surround yourself with people you trust and can hold you accountable. Whenever their status gets to their head, Mau y Ricky call each other out and make sure they are treating everyone around them with respect and keeping it humble.
"Take care of yourself."
Although being an artist may seem like it's all play, hard work is what fuels a successful career – and hard work can take its toll. Nights turn into days, and there are flights, performances, videos, deadlines and other responsibilities that have to be met as part of a busy artist's schedule, but no matter how crazy things get, you to have to take time for yourself.
Mau noted a time he skipped sleep for four days straight, and it cost him 20 days out due to illness. Rest days on tour are an essential balance to staying healthy and consistent. The brothers said their family keeps them on track with meals and sleep to ensure they stay in shape for their demanding careers.
"Find a unique way to say what everyone feels."
Mau y Ricky said their real secret to creative expression lies in thinking about how the music they write will connect with people. Before they sit down to write or create, they envision how they want people to identify with what they want to express. The practice has allowed them to think about their audience in a different way and create for their listeners rather than making something and hoping people find it interesting.
"Sometimes it's ok to give up."
When it comes to creating, time is of the essence. Giving up on dead end songs has freed up their time to move on and make better music. For them, there is no point in continuing to work on a project or song that doesn't feel authentic. Cutting their losses can increase their productivity and allow them to keep pursuing the sound they hear in their head.
Up Close & Personal with III Points, Miami's Alternative Music Festival
Three of the festival's finest discussed what it takes to make it in music including David Sinopoli, Founder & Co-Owner of Club Space/Floyd/the Ground; Michelle Granado, Assistant Talent Buyer/Artist Relations & Hospitality Director; Ashley Solage, Festival Producer & Art Coordinator; plus moderator Laura Sutnick, DJ & Founder, Klangbox.fm
"Chaos is special, just be honest, and try to get better."
Sinopoli and his team have experienced significant curveballs like hurricanes during festival season and the major Zika outbreak, but despite these setbacks, they kept pushing. Since then they've learned to embrace the chaos and stay honest with their audience to improve attendees' experience. This honesty helped their audience stay loyal to their brand because people felt they were going through the tough times with them. Maintaining a positive outlook has given the III Points team the ability to move forward fearlessly despite all the hurdles they've endured.
"Support the local music scene."
As a strategy to give more exposure to local artists who have been cutting their teeth in Miami III Points schedules local acts to perform before major headliners take the stage. At the local level, there is still a way to support the creatives in your city. Even if you come from a small town or a city with a growing music scene, there is always opportunities to get involved. You can intern at a music venue, volunteer with an organization, share music on social media or create playlists online. Exposure can come in many different ways, so be creative.
"Stay up to date with your industry."
With the festival business rapidly evolving, there is more pressure now for live events to bring creative and engaging ways for people to experience music. To keep up with the latest concert and festival trends the III Points team travels. They say this practice translates to all different areas of the music industry. Listening to other genres or music in other languages, watching YouTube videos or creating group chats can give you an edge when it comes to developing and diversifying your musical palette.
There's a variety of ways to connect and stay in touch with your industry, such as joining online groups and subscribing to blogs, newsletter and channels in-line with your goals. You can also start your own Instagram account, podcast or social channel to share your industry knowledge and highlight artists that you admire.
Art of the Song: Bring Your Musical Ideas From Conception To Completion
Multi-Platinum Mixing Engineer Marcella Araica, and artist/songwriter Teedra Moses sat down with moderator Nicole Henry, an award-winning jazz/soul artist and owner of Banister Records, to delve into the craft of bringing your musical ideas to life.
"Expand and explore once you're more established"
Araica offered this sage advice on how to deal with the urge to try it all. Music and experimentation go hand in hand, but sometimes it's better to explore once you have an established sound so people can recognize and pinpoint your music easier. If you experiment too far too early on, it may be harder to find and keep a loyal audience. People usually flock to a consistent sound, and once they support you, they're more open to exploring and supporting your evolution as an artist.
"Intoxicate your brain with other inspiring things"
Make sure the fun doesn't get sucked out of the work Moses advised, otherwise you'll end up with a sound that feels forced. For some people, it's a relaxing day at the beach, dancing or church, but don't be afraid to find joy and inspiration outside from the music. The energy and excitement you gain in other areas of your life will feed and carry over to your spirit and the music.
"It's better to make a great record than a fast record"
Moses also explained that deadlines don't work for everyone. Identifying what works for you early on will allow you to push yourself or create a more relaxed way of working. It will also help you when communicating with your team or establishing working relationships because everyone will know what to expect. Remember to stay open-minded. What works for you may not work for everyone else, and creativity cannot be rushed or delayed. Balance is key.