After 30 years working with major stars (yes, I worked with four of the twenty most streamed songs worldwide) and with small upcoming acts (I have started two of the biggest showcase conferences in Scandinavia). I know how to make an artist successful and get them to be a major star.
The problem is not how to know how to do it. The problem is to be able find the raw material to mold an artist to become that star. In many cases right now the industry just takes chances. Throw out a hundred artists and then see what sticks and how long we can take them and then dump them when they get tired. That is not how you build a new Michael Jackson or Queen. And the industry knows that. The fact is that the new industry has a hard time to find the material, because it’s trying to hold for a longer race.
What do I look for then? In three story episodes, I will try to explain that. Because I just can see that hundreds of artists right now think they are the ones I’m looking for. But like Carly Simon sang, You’re so vain. Here is the criteria.
You need really good songs. Yes, you do, but if you don’t (which most artists actually don’t have). We can fix that and get the right writing team for you. Here so many artists will fall off. The first half thinks they actually have such good songs that this is not needed. Still no not all of them are even close to the big songwriters. That is, the way it is. You really must write a lot to become that solid songwriter. Most artists just write fifteen songs and then head into the studio. The other half is ok to write songs with others. Of course, just established ones. They straight away want to get into the studio with Max Martin. You are not ready for that either, you need to start at your own level. I would put you together with experienced songwriters but new ones. The ones that are not discovered yet. Why? The price tag is too much for a very established one. Also, you are learning while we are doing it and I won't pay extra for your learning time with Max Martin; he doesn't have time for that. Britney Spears probably never heard about Max Martin when he wrote "Oops I Did It Again" for her. What I need is an artist open enough to get to know new people that can come along on the ride, and are not your old friends that you have written with before.
I need an artist that can fit the team. Out with the diva things where “I'm the star” no, I’m not here to babysit an idiot. You have to listen. I’m the one that has the knowledge and been around. You've got the brawn I've got the brains, let's make a lot of money, like some pop star said. If I say I need a song that is 3:30 don’t show up with a five minutes long epos. It’s not what I need, and I really don’t have to explain my strategy. I just need the song.
Oh, you wonder why 3:30 not 5?, easy radio has a hard time to play over 4 minutes. It has nothing to do with your artistic integrity. It’s that I must adapt to the reality of my PR people. I can put your epos on the b-side, no worries. But if that hurts your feelings get out of here!
You need to be in for the long run. Success doesn’t happen for six months. You must be able to spend at least five full years with me. Yes, my rule in five years. I really know what I’m doing so just shut up and tag along and we will be fine. I know every step and the steps you are longing for is in year three and when you hit year three those are not your longing any longer, they will be on year four. You will be in sync of what you are longing for in year five and that is where you break to the big audience. Before that, we will do things that you find kind of strange. Like, play obscure festivals in India. Play in small venues and festivals etc.
Money, yes you need that. You don’t have to be a millionaire or paying me a hell of a lot of money. I will take the risk and work for percentages; stupid I know but I can take the risk. You need your money for the traveling and the stuff that I will throw in front of you. No, you don’t need rich parents. I won’t budget on stupid expensive things. You need to have a steady income. You need work where your boss is okay that you will go away from time to time to other things. That is all. This one is really hard, sounds easy but it’s not. Your boss finds it cute the first time you want time off then it will be harder and harder. And this should just be a job nothing that you hang yourself upon. So the excuse I don’t have the money to do this is not okay. You are then just not up to the task. Believe me, I have been there. I lived on noodles from Tokyo for three years just to be in the spot I’m in right now.
Okay now to next one, have patience….so to test that the next episode comes in the next Part Two story next week.
Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham.