Greetings Agers!

It is I. The purveyor of verbal spewdom, back after what has been a hectic but rather exciting start to a new year. Well, all except being down with the flu for the beginning of it. That part can go jump off a cliff. Anyway, I hope you all are having a great start to the year and from what I have been listening to, a lot of you have some fantastic new releases out there. It is an extremely exciting time to be in the genre and I am honored to be included in this journey along with all of you fine folk.

This time around I want to hit on something that is relative to anyone that will read this. This is one of the most consistent topics I hear coming from every angle and every person in the industry. This includes the most successful gazillionaires who still want to keep doing it, to all the behind-the-scenes folk, to we struggling artists down here in the Netherworld. With that, let’s dive headfirst into the deep end of the pool and explore what it means to persevere in an industry that is no longer designed to support that concept.

Some of the ideas I’ll mention you’ve probably heard from me before. I’m nothing but consistent. . .or is that tenacious?. . .or just annoying? I guess it depends on who you ask. Anyway, what finally provoked me to address this topic is a recent YouTube interview by Rick Beato interviewing Tim Pierce and the title was “The Death of the Middle-Class Musician.”–s0cUcP3w6ZdLX

Now then, if you are not familiar with Rick and Tim, I highly suggest you do a quick Google search. These are two of the most prolific and important minds in multiple genres of the music industry and any investigation into their views are well worth pursuing because they are RIGHT.

What jumped out at me in this video was Tim Pierce discussing how the “middle class” of the industry has been disappearing. Being caught up in the hustle that we all do for the past few decades, I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but it could not have been said any better.  Most of us in this genre – nice way of saying we’re getting old – remember the times when budgets were a non-issue in the music industry. That meant jobs at all levels and multiple extending job positions that are now quickly disappearing every time we turn around. It feels extremely dismal for those of us that remember the “good times,” but I challenge that is also going to be the fuel that ignites another Renaissance, because it already has for the younger generation that did not witness this part of the story that is the music industry.

In this video, Tim expertly breaks down how some of the jobs from the days of yore have diminished, if not totally disappeared, in this industry. The sad thing is he is 100% right. Outside of Nashville and Los Angeles, the diminishment of jobs like cartage, copyists, and day runners, are bordering on non-existent. This is taken even further in the last few years as more and more producers lean toward using samples or virtual instruments versus using real musicians. Throw in the fact that we are all volleying for the same Spotify recognition for those coveted few pennies and the problem grows even more from there.

Because “budget” is now the primary concern with artists, the effect on other positions in the industry then feel the crunch. Photographers, graphic designers, publicists, radio promoters, and on and on and on, are all feeling the hurt from an industry that sometimes feels like it turned it has back on us. This is why in some of my prior articles I have mentioned that the industry was never designed to survive and is, in fact, a broken toy. The video from Beato seems to prove that to a degree, but the war is not lost.

One thing I adored about the video is how Tim Pierce would still return to the positives of the industry. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Having been a part of the prior machine, I can say with absolute confidence that there is more creative and artistic freedom now than ever before among artists. Stop and think about what all is actually happening in the realm of creativity these days. There are some amazing things going on and I have heard incredible work from so many of you that it inspires me at a level I have not felt in years. Once you’ve done that for awhile then try to focus on the good parts of your life as all of you are traversing what is constantly perceived as a grind, but in truth, can be interpreted as your foundation. Here is what I mean by that:

With the breaking of the toy, comes the destruction of pre-conceived notions. Guess what kids? The Good ole Days are GONE! The budgets are not coming back so, why on Earth does everyone in this industry still operate like they are still there? There is no possible way for us to reach what is the new measure of “success” if we stay laser focused on ideals that no longer exist. It is just not going to happen. So, what do we do?

The single most important thing any of us can do to “persevere” in the current norm is to totally re-evaluate what “making it” is, and more importantly, realizing that it might not be what we think. An ENORMOUS part of this lies in getting past the idea that you have only “made it” if you are independently supported by your music. I’ve watched that one bite artists in the ass a million times while at the same time they have a chart-topping hit album. That one gets me every time. Do you have a roof over your head? Have you eaten today? Get over it.

Again, the return is not going to be what it once was, but haven’t you indeed “made it” if your product of creativity is reaching the masses and you are inspiring someone else? Isn’t THAT what we all ACTUALLY dreamt of when we spent hours locked away in our rooms honing our crafts and diving into ourselves to create this thing? Isn’t the legacy of your music being out in the world so that it can continue on after you PERSEVERANCE?

I challenge you all to start by rethinking what it all means to you. Yes, we have to hustle more these days to eat and collect our woes, but I think there is much more to it than that. If we all use the good ole corporate philosophy of “diversifying our portfolios” to pay the bills instead of lamenting because we aren’t wealthy, then we move forward. Better yet, we end up having the artistic freedom to reach heights that you just can’t reach when you are preoccupied with where every single penny is coming from so that you can survive. The fact that we can raise up the overall level of artistry in music simply by re-imagining what it means to survive in this crazy world is inspiring to me.

Y’all chew on that for a while and see where you can make changes in your life and get past some archaic ideas. I think you might be surprised what happens when you embrace the art of perseverance.


Sean O’Bryan Smith is an award-winning film composer, author, producer and recording artist. As a musician, he has recorded and/or performed with over 100 major and independent recording artists worldwide in multiple genres. As an author, Sean’s regular columns have been published in numerous musical periodicals and he was a contributing author alongside Gene Simmons and Nile Rodgers for a series of books dedicated to the ins and outs of the music industry. Sean’s music continues to be heard across the globe on radio, film and television. He is currently composing, recording and producing from his home in South Florida as well as serving as Director of Artist Development and Relations for Wayfarer Records where he is also an Artist in Residence.