4 Things Independent Musicians Can Learn From Kanye West

By NationWide Source -
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Kanye West.

Just mentioning that name calls up several wildly different things to mind. A rap superstar, that one guy who was mean to Taylor Swift, a man who loves Twitter rants, and most recently, a future presidential candidate.

And while Kanye is a polarizing figure, he is without a doubt one of the most successful artists of the past few years.  Not only is he successful in music, he’s also recently had some success in the fashion world. New York Fashion Week just ended, and during the week the magazine Vanity Fair interviewed Kanye.

I read this article on a whim. It looked semi-interesting, and I was semi-bored.

After the first few paragraphs, I was sitting up in my chair. This wasn’t the Kanye I had seen on late night television. This was an interview with a successful, albeit eccentric, businessman who knew what he was doing. The article is a longer read, but I recommend you check it out.

At Source, we believe that where there is success, there is something we can learn from it. As an independent musician, I want to learn everything I can to help create my own successful career. So I pay attention when those lessons come, even from unexpected places—like Kanye West.

The Four Things Kanye West Taught Me:

Have a Vision

“The only concrete plan is that I plan to use concrete.”-Kanye West

Taken out of the context of the article, this quote may seem a little odd. Kanye was talking about the brick and mortar store he wants to open for his fashion line. The interviewer wanted to know if there were any concrete plans for this store, and Kanye responded,“The only concrete plan is that I plan to use concrete.” There are no dates here, no timelines, and no deadlines. There’s no actual location yet, but he knows what he wants. He has a vision for what the future of his clothing line can be.

But even though he has a vision, he’s not micro-managing his creativity. He has a vision, and probably some rough plans, but they are flexible. He knows that what is in his head right now might not be quite the right fit when it comes time to actually build the store. But he has a core concept, and he’s going to stay true to that concept, though the details may change.

The same goes with your big ideas. You may have an idea for an album or tour that isn’t ready to get fleshed out right now. And that’s awesome. You should always be cultivating those creative parts of you. Keep your overarching vision in mind, but don’t sweat the small stuff.

Put Your Ideas Into Action

“You can have the longest intellectual artistic conversation about anything and it all means nothing without execution.” -Kanye West

Sometimes creative people create and then don’t move forward. Putting a few lyric lines down on a page or recording a new melody that pops in your head is the easy stuff.

Sitting down, really thinking about and finishing a song, and seeing that song through to it’s final mastered state is a very different thing than just having a moment of creative inspiration.

Indie artists have to realize it’s the same thing with their music. It’s the same thing with those good intentions toward marketing. Having an idea and talking about the idea are very different things from the idea becoming a reality. Successful people move out of the ethereal and into implementation.

Another Quote From Kanye on Implementation:

“My toe is barely in the door, my foot is barely on the gas, I’ve got to press down harder. The most successful thing about the second season [of his fashion line] was just doing the second season. Every time, the most successful thing about it is doing it.”

Be Practical.

“I’ve gone three years without a phone. I don’t go a day without shoes.” -Kanye West

Here Kanye was speaking specifically about creating something that people love and will use, but I think these words can move us further than that–what do we really need?

It can be tempting to buy the latest, greatest piece of gear, but do you really need it? You may really want to go on an eight-week national tour, but is that really best for your music (and bank account?)

Take a look at what you can practically do for your music career. If you are buying new gear, what is going to serve you best, not just make you feel fancy? If you really want to tour, what cities can you hit on a weekend tour or over a couple of weeks? You need fans–are you really going to join every brand new social network, or are you going to pinpoint where your fans are and meet them there?

Music careers always start with big dreams, but those dreams get easily lost if you aren’t practical about them.

Make It Beautiful

“I think people just wear yoga pants and sweatshirts, and I wanted to make the most beautiful version of that possible.” -Kanye West

You create music because you love music, right? Would you love music as much if no one cared about how they created music? If everyone sang off key and out of tempo, using the same rhyme scheme for every line, music would not have the power that it does. That intangible power of music is a driving force behind your CD sales, whether you acknowledge it or not.

So make something great! Make something that connects deeply with people because it connects deeply with you.

You are an artist, so create beautiful, meaninglful art!

Have you learned any unconventional wisdom from superstars or even your mom? We want to know! Share with us in the comments or tweet @nationwidedisc



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