There are many differences between being an artist in Los Angeles versus being on in Nashville. I haven’t thought about this difference much since being here until lately… The auditions for the Voice came through town, and seem to always remind me of the state of the music industry every time they do. The Voice isn’t a bad show, but it’s a good example of poorly representing talent to the talent’s demise in order to promote the greater good of the show. No artist since then has kept the “Major Label” contract that’s come out of it. In fact, Tony Lucca is the only artist I know that has retained a decent contract on Adam Levine’s own 222 Records since the show’s origins in America. Another friend of mine that won the Swedish version of the show when he was 19 (now 40ish), had a career that lasted much longer after the show, making it through one album.
This show however does help to illustrate the point that the music business is simply that. It’s a cold industry that isn’t built on the emotion of the artist, or the craft, but the expoitation of it. I don’t think it started that way. It seems Nashville has inherently held the artist in mind more so than an LA or NY, but Nashville is also the start of publishing, and thereby the avenue through which artists make money = music business. It started out with radio guys going into the Appalachian mountains recording the guys up in the hills’ Bluegrass and Roots and bringing it down the mountain to the rest of the people. Publishing came in later. So how might this have affected the way we as artists in 2014 see the two towns and act amongst each other in them?
Because Nashville is inherently, or at least seems inherently, “for” or about the artist – this is a town that seems to promote the idea of independent artistry more so than other towns I’ve been to. Even NY has a taste of this. There are such deep caverns where music lives in NY, and so many styles of music originated from the collaboration the city has seemed to spawn and develop, but Nashville is different. Nashville is the town of songwriters. It’s home to the older parts of this industry, the big brother, and grandfather system. The deeper I get into the scene here I feel that it’s just as much a rat race here for popularity (because that’s how we get to the top, if you didn’t know), but no one seems to want to admit this.
Los Angeles, on the other hand… with its bronzed and tighter abs, chic blondes, and dirty brunettes, is a town that cuts straight to the point. You have to look good, play the part, and do what industry says to do, period. It’s cut and dry. Everyone knows the Hollywood made the film industry, and TV has roots here as well, but what interesting is that even though Nashville spans a little further back in music, Los Angeles has always had a much “cooler” appeal for musicians. Truthfully, I always wanted to live there, and thought that by growing up there I may have had a better childhood as a artist. That’s the logic of an 8 year old boy in America for you. But isn’t it the picture we’re given? After living there for almost a decade, all I can say to my younger self is, “you were right, it may have been better”.
Even as “cool” as Nashville is now, it seems to be missing the point that the rat race for popularity is here, we just seem to have a natural aversion to calling it that here. No matter where you go, connections are key, and development is up to you. You’re the artist, and the craft is yours. Making yourself an independent artist may not give you the ability to reach the “top” like JT or Luda, but it will definitely shape you as an artist away from others. I guess that what I’ve found mostly is that Nashville is encouraging my independence, where as LA was simply giving me an outlet. Not that one is better than the other, but I certainly feel a lot less – since I’ve been back in Nashville – a lot less that I need to be the most popular kid in the room, and a lot more that I need to be the best in the room.