There’s no neat formula to success – but there’s stuff you have to do. Manager Mick Clark takes vocalists behind the scenes.
He’s discovered some of the greatest vocal artists in the UK.
Mick Clark’s wide-ranging career has included significant work with Virgin, Sony and Columbia as well as supervising music for ad agencies and prominent film projects.
Mick describes himself as a soul-music fanatic—there is no denying that he is behind much of the explosion of Black Soul music in the UK, having signed up too many prominent artists to name here.
Currently Mick is managing Preeya Kalidas – well known for her roles in EastEnders and Bend it Like Beckham – and whose hit single Shimmy, is a YouTube sensation.
Today he comes to vocalists with advise straight from the hip on how to make it in the music industry:
I’ve been around the industry so long and have seen many surprises—so I can tell you that things can’t be boiled down to a simple plan to achieve success.*
But there are some key principles that any vocalist would do well to remember if they want to be discovered.
1. Get Confidence.
Every artist I’ve ever met is insecure – even if they are outwardly confident; this seems to go with the territory.
You just have to find ways to believe in yourself and your music.
An aspect of developing confidence is believing in music for its own sake; you have to believe that music is an art, not a product.
I’m not a musician, but I’ve been blessed with good taste. I’ve been around this business for 30 years; I still buy loads of music—I love music – music is brilliant, important and special.
Music is art for me – I want to work with people who create great art. So, believe in your art.
2. Stay at the Center of Your Passion.
It’s so sad to see young musicians who say, “here is what I do – but if you don’t like it, I can do something else.”
Don’t do something else. Do what you do – stick to your principles.
If I have a track and play it to a room of 20 people, it will elicit 20 different opinions; some will complain that the bass it too loud or soft; some will hate the overall style of the piece and some will love it!
You can’t be swayed from your path by an opinion – you have to have conviction and belief – don’t change what you do at the whim of one person’s view.
Here’s a phrase I live by: no concessions and no compromise.
I’ve been hugely successful in signing up people who are different, who don’t fit the mold of what is currently “in” – certainly this proves that one should be true to their style.
If an A and R man just doesn’t like what you do, leave him behind; keep doing want you do, stay at the center of your passion.
Your music has got your name on it – not mine. What matters, at the end of the day, is that you are truly happy with what you have done.
3. Work Damn Hard.
I’m not a Simon Cowell type of person; I respect that he gets people into the business – and I certainly believe there is such a thing as an ‘X-factor’ of charisma, talent, or whatever you want to call it.
But I wonder if all of the focus on reality TV is giving vocalists the impression that becoming a star is about luck and ease.
Having a career is hard work; it’s not about recording a few songs and then jetting off to Monte Carlo.
The reality is that your career is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration; there are no short-cuts – if you aren’t motivated to throw yourself at this business, then change your business.
That’s why I like the work that London’s Associated Studios does, for example. Every week they push accomplished vocalists, actors and writers to hone their skills and to never think they have “arrived”!
Preeya Kalidas embodies this work ethic; she is an absolutely exemplary artist who wants to get things right and understands that this is a business where art and commerce have to meet.
Her attitude is fantastic –this results in a commitment to hard work.
4. Present Your Stuff Incredibly Well.
There’s no formula for how to make it.
But one thing vocalists have got to know is that, when it comes to the “big break”, this is truly a one shot business.
If I had my way, I would have every vocalist memorize the lyrics to Eminem’s Lose Yourself:
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo
When I first started A and R work, the focus was on artist development; now it is about finding the right artist at the right time.
So, line up your ducks, practice harder than you ever have before, refine your craft and present yourself well.
* written by Gregory A. Barker in conversation with Mick Clark
Mick Clark is one of London’s key figures in music management. He is currently managing Preeya Kalidas, whose single release, Shimmy, has come out to great acclaim—her album, Constant Craving, will be out in early 2011 with Mercury records.