Stephanie Mills statement about R&B on a TV One appearance made the rounds recently and her point is incredibly valid but she also leaves a couple of things out. In this appearance, she talks about how fake the industry can be and that the love that we give is often not reciprocated amongst industry brethren. “Keep in mind when you are invited to someone's house, you are the entertainment” the veteran R&B singer states on this appearance. and she is correct… BUT
“…if what you are doing does not have perceived VALUE you are pretty much just DONE”
Stephanie states what many of us in the industry already know to be true. The people we work with and do business with are rarely our true friends but so is the girl at the Starbucks we get coffee from or our favorite teller at the bank. While there are always exceptions we must never forget we work in a lifestyle industry. This means it's an industry that has no set hours or standard work rules. You can eat with people you work with, drink with people you work with and go to events with people you work within any industry but in OUR industry the difference is it's all part of the job. In any other industry, you may have developed a true friendship with these instances.
Can we have TRUE friends in the entertainment industry? You will have to wait to find that out when you are out of work or in need, then let me know how that works out for you. BTW, don't call me, just send me an email. I consider clients my BEST friends, they can hate me to the core but I STILL consider them my friends because they believe in and respect what I do and at the end of the day this is a business and “what we DO” is paramount. Notice I said “DO” not “DID.” (my dark humor is always ready)
The entertainment industry has always been based on who's hot over who's not. Living in LA for half my life, taught me many lessons, one of the greatest ones is that fame is fleeting and those who reinvent themselves have the best chance at legacy and longevity but it can mostly be done when the stage is still yours (pertaining to maintaining a career in the industry per se). Click Next to read more
The first time I learned the value of “friends” over “business” was when I was a radio PD. I got fired and all my new friends were nowhere to be found. I was calling them for support and to let them know I needed work, but unbeknownst to me my stock plummetted and my value was non-existent to them. There was nothing that I could do for them. There were one or two people who picked up the phone but 98% of them did not. Of course, when I got another gig they all reappeared and asked “where have you been?” but I had graduated with a mental business degree at that point and the lesson had been learned. I have never been mad at the process. I APPRECIATED the education.
Many of us put our blood, sweat, and tears into the game in the early days of our careers so much so that we miss a great amount of time with our families and true friends. These most important things need consistent nurturing in order to maintain a healthy status. Of course, we expect the same level of commitment in return. But one day the industry will be gone, family and friends can last a lifetime. I have literally seen people DIE when the industry is done with them. NOTHING in the industry is more important than your TRUE friends and family.
THE OLD MAN (or WOMAN) in the ROOM … CAN STILL BUILD A NEW HOUSE
I'm not into bragging about my tenure because in an industry like ours I think it hurts more than helps. The level of respect that we get is often based on what our current offerings are or for those who know us. If they don't see us OFTEN they don't know us. So, during my (let's just say MANY) years in the industry, I've seen people state their tenure chest out with head held high, not bringing anything to the table and demanding a plate with the current most successful people for past deeds in a past industry. In a perfect world you would get that respect but in a youth-driven industry, with a 16-year-old singer at the head of the table, he's not impressed. You can only be older and valuable when you are current.
Long tenures to many mean nothing more than OLD and DATED. What you HAVE done simply doesn't bear the weight to what you ARE doing and if what you are doing does not have perceived VALUE you are pretty much just DONE. Unfortunately, once you are viewed as the old man or woman in the room there are few options except to completely reinvent yourself or exit the industry and build a new house (vs room) somewhere else with your leverage as the foundation.
When we make our careers about ‘ego and tenure' even when we are currently successful the fall is akin to jumping off a cliff with a defective parachute. It's NEVER been about ego and tenure it's ALWAYS about what you can do and how valuable you are. How you see yourself is not as important as how others see you in our industry so you better see yourself with some other damn options.
SPEAK WHEN YOU HAVE A PLATFORM?
Mills comes from a generation of singers who were told to shut up, sing and get your song on the radio. Don't have any political or social views and be satisfied with being a product and brand instead of a human with feelings. The list of artists who were ripped off and often died broke, on drugs or who gave up on the industry is never-ending from her generation but today's artists (thanks to Social Media) have had a crash course in marketing that lets them actually SEE their value firsthand and to be entrepreneurs and their own A&R. They can get addicted to the process of promoting themselves get millions of fans and use that leverage for confidence and branding as a direct connection to outside corporations to generate massive wealth with nobody in the middle the only thing THEY still have to learn is about money.
Expect What You LEAST Expect
Mills is an amazing singer and a true talent but she is not the first talent to speak out during the sunset of their music industry (not entertainment) careers. While everything that she is saying is completely valid, it ALWAYS comes off, unfortunately, as sour grapes at this juncture. It's ALWAYS more relevant and thought-provoking to speak when you have the greatest platform but it's also incredibly risky. We are not used to seeing this version of Stephanie and many times the artists who ARE on top don't want to rock the boat. They know everything that she is saying is true but they look at her statements as “bitter” UNTIL they are in the same position years down the road at which point THEY are perceived the same way. The IRONY of the situation is at that point it is often too late to make a point because new artists are not trying to hear it. They have to go through it to get to it.
The same rule applies for those of us who are not singers or entertainers but who WORK in the music and radio industry. I've seen many people die of broken hearts after a landslide fall from grace when the industry was done with them. They were so caught up in the moment (and some moments last for 30 years) they thought they had friends for life only to find out when they need those people most they are not there. As I have stated MANY times on this site THIS IS A BUSINESS. We must respect that. And a business is only as good as the supply, demand and in this case CURRENT(cy), as in current and profitability. If there is no longer a demand, people move on to see where the new demand is. We still have a ton of supply or inventory based on what we want to give but the industry no longer wants what certain people are selling. The most valuable asset older industry people have is LEVERAGE. If you can make money within the industry, then you can also make it without the industry. The options for using our leverage in other fields are numerous.
You can never create a paying career out of telling everyone what's wrong with the industry but you can KEEP a career by constantly reinventing yourself and making sure you have a backup plan. In the industry, things can change in an instant and the best way to respond to that is to expect what you least expect. Ciao
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