I’m an aspiring artist’s best friend…like an artist development coach. I live and breathe to help talented artists transform their art into professional enterprises––helping them thrive at the highest level of their potential.
(I’m Alison Ball, President of TuneGo Music Technology, former VP of A&R at Warner Brothers records––and––Artist Development Specialist.)
Bringing great music to the world is my hourly, daily, lifelong mission. It’s a passion, not just career––a life purpose.
I’ve worked in the music business for 3 amazing decades, building powerful icons and priceless relationships. But, most importantly, the last 30 years have built me into a priceless––prrrriiiceless––asset for you.
DEAR ARTISTS: YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN TODAY
The days of in-house artist development are over. Music labels are no longer interested in seeing your potential, nurturing that potential, then spending tens-of-thousands of dollars getting you ready for the big stage. Today you must come to the table as“fully- developed-star-material.”
Big labels are simply looking for acts they can scale, not build. They want ready made successes to amplify, globally, with the power of their marketing and distribution. The pro building is up to you, your team, or an expert you hire to get you game ready––TO WIN.
As an Artist Development Specialist, my overall job is to “ready” artists with every asset needed to make record companies (and audiences) want them––NOW. In addition to development expertise, I’m also an artist packaging expert––meaning I pair emerging artists with established pro collaborators who can take them and their music to limitless levels.
To be upfront with you, if you’re an aspiring artist, working with me could literally change your life. That’s not boasting. That’s just fact. If talented, truly ready, and unafraid of hard work, I can get you into doors normally shut to the rest of the world.
WHAT’S NEEDED TO WORK WITH SOMEONE LIKE ME
When artists track me down, or send requests for me to work with them, the first thing I ask is, “How much music do you have?” And many––in a froth of excitement––soon realize 1
they don’t have nearly enough––at all. Regretfully, I have to stick a pin in that excitement and watch them deflate right before my eyes. My advice? Don’t be them.
You don’t want to reach out to a person like me prematurely. Take your time; get some good songs together. I can’t help you until you do. I need to hear “a body of music” to get you where you want to go. I need to hear the story you are trying to tell. And for me, an artist must FIRST have a minimum of 5 songs in the attempt to tell that story.
So, when someone approaches me with just one or two amazing songs, that’s great, but it still isn’t enough to tell me who they are and what they ultimately want to say to the world. And those are the clarifiers I need to know before any next steps––no matter how much money you or your team plunks onto the table.
Whether rapper, singer, or instrumentalist, this is policy across the board. I need to know you. And a body of music helps me to know you.
Do the work.
THE SIX QUESTIONS
Questions I have for every artist:
- MESSAGE: What are you talking about in your music?
- IDENTITY: What is your identity? (Who are you?)
- AUDIENCE: Who are you singing (or rapping) to?
- NARRATIVE: What is your story?
- INSPIRATION: Who inspired you?
- CATALYST: What inspired you to do this type of music?
Can you currently answer the above questions with clarity?
When working with me, artists know these beginning points backward and forward. Always know your story, to whom you’re telling it, and exactly who’s telling it.
Artists I work with are always unique: “the tomboy,” “sophisticated upscale,” “free-spirit- ed gypsy,” “hardcore street rapper,” “preppy college rapper,” “edgy rocker,” “alt rocker,” or “pop teen heartthrob.” Regardless of type, the development rules and processes re- main the same.
I spend a lot of time stripping things down to the basic message points of your act, and music, in every aspect.
There is a visual story, musical story and lyrical story. All three must be compelling. We will need to know what we are saying before we get to the megaphone trying to speak–– fashioning a clear coherent message in sound, style, performance––even persona. If you look at the biggest in the game, they have this; and that’s why they are so effective. It all needs to be intentional, designed and planned to be masterful.
This is where I spend most of my development time with artists.
A VISUAL STORY
Let’s say you already have 10 to 20 great songs in the can, then, it’s about perfecting your image. We work to ensure your “looks” are as stunning and arresting as your music– –and that they match the music. Visuals are a crucial part of your package. And in most genres, you should work on it as hard as you work on your music.
Debate, decide, then design how people are going to visually identify who you are. What are your pictures going to look like? Wardrobe? Accessories? Hairstyles? And be clear on exactly how will they reinforce your core message.
Often I’ll have developing artists do research, find pics of other people––(artists, models, whomever)––to give me the idea of who they think they are. From here, we create look- books, beginning to shape a visual story of who they’ll become to the world.
A MUSICAL STORY
Let’s say you clearly have talent, an obvious “it factor,” and 10 to 20 songs, but the tunes need a lot of work. This is where I roll up my sleeves again.
Remember: Artist development is about filling in the gaps where there are holes or insufficiencies in your act.
In the above scenario, this can make the development process look like:
- Hiring collaborating songwriters to get you new songs, or rehab the old ones.
- Hiring seasoned producers (or engineers) to get your sound right and tight.
Your look, swag, and persona may be prime, but if your music is a bit weak, that’s a huge chink in your armor.
Collaborating with pro-songwriters can help you express what you are trying to say in a powerful way. Equally, if your production work was strong enough to get my attention, but not strong enough to make you competitive during a deal pitch, we remedy that via Grammy Award winning producers who elevate your sound.
This is about artist “and” product development.
After all, it’s a package deal. Both must be finely tuned for a record label to give you serious consideration these days.
And, for those who don’t want a major deal, you still need that combo––(artist + your repertoire of music). Both must be majorly popping so audiences will discover you, love you, and keep loving you. In fact, your package will need to be stronger to beat your competitor who has the major deal.
Either way it goes, if you want massive success––(and not mediocre)––you can’t get around the development work. And why would you want to?
DON’T BLOW YOUR SHOT
For years, I was the person behind that desk, inside the major record label, being pitched. I know exactly what gatekeepers say “yay” and “nay” to.
I’ve seen too many talented artists come in the door with a “package” just shy of what was needed to make them a mega-star. If only they had objective counsel, professional advice and powerful coaching before they took their shot; their lives could be different today. But most, then and now, are oblivious to what they need to win this game.
We’ve all seen those extreme cases of people auditioning for an American Idol, having no idea how off the mark they were from being in top form to compete. Clearly, some of those were just entertaining moments for television, but it’s not far from reality. There are some really talented people who are just plain “under developed.” Did you hear that? “Talented” but “under developed.”
If you’re seriously positioning yourself to do music entertainment, “professionally,” you need pro-assessment and development before you try to move forward. Take yourself, your commitment and your future career, seriously.
ARTIST DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST
My job is to take clients from a C+ level, or a B+ level, to an A+ level. Getting to the top of the music game is actually possible, but you must bring your “A” game. And that can be cultivated. You may only get one shot. Don’t blow it. Be ready.
No one wants to be that person who thinks they’re ready then harshly finds out they’re not.
Prepare yourself. Develop yourself. Be a pro. Win!