Surviving the music industry in the digital age is rough. The music industry in general is rough, cold, and unforgiving to begin with, but the advancement of technology has made staying ahead of the curve difficult. Everyone’s an artist, producer or songwriter, and it’s as if nearly anybody can wake up and label their basement a studio. Let’s not even touch the over-saturated talent pool of individuals who see music as one of the few avenues they can “make it big” for themselves and their families.
With the stakes so high, survival in the music industry requires you to stand out. You’ve got to innovate. You’ve got to be passionate about your product, and see your work as an art form. You’ve got to be dedicated. You’ve got to go hard, or go the f*ck home – and stay there.
Chopping it up with one of the homies, Shadowkat Nightson of the Indianapolis-based Nightsons group, we spoke about the importance of innovation and persistance for surviving the music industry in the digital age – especially when you’re in it for the long haul. He said something really striking regarding why so many artists were falling short: failure to resonate – and failure to accept rejection. Many of today’s hip hop artists aren’t just falling short because they’re bad. They’re not resonating with their audience… and all the money in the world can’t fix that:
“There are mad artists out here spending mad money on studio time, beats, videos, shows, etc. and their music does NOT resonate. All that money – and for what? Just like the GOP Super PACs. So they come to us, thinking they can handle what we are going to say. We destroy artists and rebuild them as necessary. Unfortunately, a lot of these dudes think they’re stars already.”
If there’s one thing Shadow knows, it’s music. The self-proclaimed “force you can fear from the middle of the map” and mastermind possesses decades of professional music industry expertise in areas ranging from production to brand development and marketing. Whenever dude opens up and talks about anything regarding the music industry, I listen… and then I ask questions. And that quote impregnated my black ass with questions. I wanted to know what artists needed to do to stand out, how one figures out if an artist is a diamond in the rough, properly managing rejection without giving up… and then some. I was hungry for knowledge… but I decided to share the wealth because you might find this information useful too. Thank me later.
How do you know an artist has potential?
It’s a feeling, to be truthful. We live in a world where everybody thinks they can rap, sing and/or play an instrument; however, very few EMOTE. I know the rush I get when I hear a song that I love; whether it be the first few notes of the song, the first few words of the first verse, the pull of the hook, the power of the instrumentation, etc. I look for an artist to remind me of those feelings because if I can feel it, the people will, as well.
How can an artist deal with rejection gracefully without losing his gumption?
I always tell artists to rely on rejection. Everybody will not feel you or your art; so, get used to it. The weak artists can’t handle that concept. They feel as if you should appreciate them exposing their soul to you so, in turn, you should appreciate their art. Even if it’s difficult for the human ear to interpret. Some artists say, “Well, I made this for me and my friends to enjoy.” Well, you and your friends should have kept it to yourselves if you can’t handle the idea of being rejected. There’s more: use that rejection to create better art. If you can’t do that, then perhaps you should rethink calling yourself an “artist”.
How does “FUTURETENSE” push the envelope of musical evolution in Hip Hop and R&B?
At Nightsons, we are always intrigued by the idea of crafting timeless music. In this instance, we obsessed ourselves with the year 2035 [not that we want to date anything]. However, we have done such a great a job of creating songs that STILL sound good 10 years after their inception, and we wondered if we could create music NOW that would be enjoyable in the year 2035 without sounding overly-processed. Digital funk. Machine music with soul. Music with analog touches in a world where the next iteration of the MP3 format has evolved at least 10 times. We wanted to create timeless music in a musically-stagnant time. So, we theorized 3 separate 5-song EP albums that would utilize a “point-release” system to introduce this music to the world. That’s “FUTURETENSE”. For more information on the logic behind our using point releases, please visit Nightsons’ post on point releases when you get the chance.
What does it “really take” to build longevity in the music industry?
Patience and vision. This can be a cold and unforgiving business. I’ve been in this game for a LONG time, and people always tell me how proud of me they are for staying in this industry. I chalk it up to my team at Nightsons. My business partners, Warren ‘Three V’ Harris & Beatroom. The men who taught me how to write songs: my brother Sho-Down & my man FoDoose. My right-hand man, Greenlaw. The producers on my team such as SoulCineMatik & Brandis Gossett. Artists who have come into the fold to create incredible music and truly uplift the brand such as The Gentleman Alphonse, Mtu, Jaecyn Bayne, Mike Payne & TAZ. My wigSPLITTER DJ crew featuring such outstanding talent as Kenny Kixx, Reddy Rock, B-Swift, DJ JF The Legend, Wrekk One, DJ Duck and numerous others. When you surround yourself with this much talent and perseverance, you can do nothing but ENDURE. Do you want to last in the music industry? GET A GOOD TEAM. That’s the secret to surviving the music industry in the digital age.
Shadowkat Nightson is the CEO & President of Nightsons, LLC; a globally-progressive music production company based in Indianapolis, IN. The first point release from Nightsons’ “FUTURETENSE” album series, “FUTURETENSE.1“, is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and the digital music store of your choice. A clean, “edited” version is also available.
Edited Versions of FUTURETENSE.1: