Rick Barker Shares Advice for Aspiring Musicians

Former Taylor Swift manager Rick Barker stopped by LuxLessons School Director Jeff Alexander’s Music Business Lounge podcast. Rick shared his extensive experience in the industry, along with tips for aspiring musicians about fan engagement, social media, and lots more!

Check out this excerpt:

You once told Taylor “If you want to sell 500,000 records you have to meet 500,000 people.” Can you talk a little bit about how an independent artist can take that idea and run with it?

Sure. I saw the impact she had when people met her. I was like “okay, so how do we get to as many people as possible.” I knew if we tried to do it just through touring it would take forever. That’s why we started really utilizing social media as well. That’s what independent artists have today. They have the ability to get themselves in front of people all over the world. The problem is most of them don’t know how to talk to folks. All they do is try to promote and sell.

One of the things I really focus on in the programs I teach is building relationships. Let’s get involved in their conversations. Let’s not make it just about you. Find out the movies they’re watching, the books they’re reading, the sports teams they’re cheering on. Get active and participate in that. Then bring them into the music side of things. Not all artists have the personality to need to get in front of somebody. It can actually cause more harm than good! She was one of them that won with people, so that’s why we did it.

What does it mean to be “ready?”

It depends on who you’re trying to impress. If you think that you’re ready for a record deal but you don’t tour and you only have one song, you’re not ready. Record companies are looking for small businesses to invest in. For songwriting, if you just started writing songs and you’ve got a catalogue of 20 songs, I don’t think you’re ready for a publishing deal until you’ve written 100 songs. You need to go learn your craft. You need to go learn your trade. Then of course somebody will come along and sign a random nobody.

Everyone’s different, but for me you better have been in the business for a while. You better treat it like a business. I better see that you’re showing up for work everyday. If you walk into a record company and you’re the best female vocalist, you sound like Carrie Underwood, but they already have a Carrie Underwood, they aren’t going to sign you.

The smart labels are looking for the most original things they can find. They’re looking to see if there’s a consistency with the work ethic. They’re looking at who’s on their team? Who’s involved with them? What are they doing on a daily basis? Are they already playing? Do they need a lot of work or are they ready to just be fine tuned a bit and sent out on the road? There’s no universal answer to that question. Every situation is different. Timing and luck aren’t duplicatable. You never know what’s going to happen.

Listen to the full conversation here and be sure to connect with Rick:


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