Does Advice Make Us Better Artists?


I’ve been thinking about this lately. Those of us on the come up in this music game want good advice so we can succeed. The thing is what is “good advice”? And who should we turn to for it?

New Rules

First rule I try to live by is never consider unsolicited advice. That means if anybody gives me advice without me asking for it, I try my best to ignore it. I don’t want to hear it. And the reason is similar to what Kanye said to Sway earlier this year, and no it’s not what you think, it’s more along the lines of: are you successful in what I’m trying to do? I can’t take advice from a poor person on “how to be rich”. Though I can take advice from an ex-rich-current-poor-person on “how not to go broke”, because hey they’ve been there. The main thing is the only advice I want to hear is the advice I ask for.

Secondly, and this is a little caveat. Even if the person your asking advice from is successful in the industry you’re trying to tackle, they may not be aware of the current ground conditions to give good advice. Meaning that what worked 10 years ago, may not necessarily work now. In fact, there’s a good chance it wont work at all.

Jay-Z Advice to Lil B

For example, let’s take the enigma that is Lil B. Imagine Jay-Z called up Lil B, when he was on his ascent up the internet star machine, and gave him some big brother advice. What would he say? Hov would probably tell the Based God he needs to improve his raps, get better production, and get his songs mixed and mastered by a professional. He’d also tell him to get a better video director and stop asking Jesus for fellatio and oh yeah stop saying, “I’m gay”. Jay-Z would essentially try to turn Lil B into Memphis Bleek or J. Cole; something mainstream rap consumers can easily digest. We can obviously see how this would be terrible advice. This is because all the edge would be sanded of Lil B and he would lose the things that people like about him in the first place. We don’t need Lil B to turning into Lil Zane okay?

So where are we to look for good advice? Good advice like anything else “good” in this world is hard to come by. Most artists will probably turn to someone they know, particularly a friend whose taste they trust. The thing is there is a good chance they wont be able to (A) effectively communicate their advice to you (B) tell you the truth. And the thing is most artists don’t want to hear “the truth” and maybe don’t even need to “hear the truth”. Imagine if Jay-Z told Lil B “the truth” and it devastated him to stop making music or even change? Sure you may laugh and say that’d be great, but many great artists were told “the truth”. Jay-Z was actually told “the truth” in his early days as well. He was told his voice was terrible and would never make it. People told Elvis and The Beatles and Kanye and Drake and pretty much every artist “the truth” that they would never make it.

You Wont Make It

Perhaps instead of being told the advice we want to hear (i.e. “keep going”, “you’re gonna make it man!”), maybe the advice we should be hearing is “you’re never gonna make it”. As that what seems to separate the artists that do make it from the ones that don’t.



Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

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