Ask An Artist: A Conversation With Melanie McClain

I am a big fan of serendipity. It plays a huge part in my life and mostly in how I build my network. Melanie is one of those people that entered my life through serendipity to great effect. She is a talented innovator and has been helping artists develop to their full potential. In a brief conversation with Melanie, I discovered that she has experience in advertising, content contribution to major platforms like Saint Heron, manages an emerging artist, and offers her services as a creative consultant. So, she was the perfect person to ask for advice about building a successful music career. Read her thoughts:

Tell us a little bit about yourself Melanie and how you got into the music business?

"I have a day job as a strategist at an advertising agency and I'm also a contributor at Saint Heron, manager of The GTW, and freelance creative consultant. I got my start by creating a music blog in college. I've always been passionate about finding distinctive musicians. A few of the artists I wrote about on my blog reached out to me and that lead to a PR gig for G-Eazy when he was unsigned, managing The GTW and his side project JODY, and other music related projects."  

In the time you have spent in the music industry, what are characteristics you’ve seen that make an artist successful?

"Distinctiveness and tenacity. Over the last 7 years, I've noticed that successful artists create their own lane and they don't worry about fitting in because they know that they're worthy of standing out. I've also noticed when an artist is in love with the process. A musician who's dedicated to creating a strong catalog of music, crafting a unique identity, and putting in the work to build a fanbase will always find success." 

What are your top tips for people who are looking to grow their music career?

"Do some soul searching and figure out what make you a distinctive artist. Start there and make it reflect everything. Lyrics, production, fashion, album art, music videos, social media presence, etc." 

What has been some of the best advice you have given or has been given to you?

"Don't make it a goal, go for it.  People frequently sit and dream of achieving something in the future when they can do their research, create a plan, and make baby steps into the right direction." 

How has social media played a part in how you do your job? Any tips for artists managing their own social media accounts?

"Social media is super important to me, it's literally the foundation of my day job. I've built most of my network by building real relationships with journalists, musicians, event producers, radio hosts, and fans online. It's shocking that artists still think they'll get people to listen to their music by spamming random people or tweeting "@TheFader check on my track <soundcloud link>". Artists know that they need to infiltrate a scene to gain fans and book shows, so they should think of social media the same way. It takes time to find music writers who will connect with your music and then build a rapport on Twitter or Facebook, but it's worth it." 

What should a musician consider before committing to a career in music?

"They shouldn't think of music as an alternative to a 9-to-5 job, because they'll work more than 40 hours a week if they're going to have a real career. Music is a great hobby, but to be successful they'll need to work harder than an MBA student." 

What are some of the challenges you’ve seen musicians face and how have they dealt with it?

"Lack of opportunity is a major challenge. I'm from Chicago, but when I lived in New Orleans and Nashville, I learned that all cities don't have the same opportunities. However, I also learned that an artist can become successful if they do things like putting in the effort to create a scene when one doesn't exist, helping develop filmmakers when the city lacks go-to-people for music videos or creating an online presence when the city lacks notable local blogs."  

Are there any trends you are seeing in the music (or art) business that future artists need to be aware of? Please share with us.

"I've noticed that artists are no longer thinking of a label deal as the goal. They're creating album quality mixtapes, selling out tours around the world, and performing on national TV without a deal. In the past, musicians thought they could only achieve those things with the help of a label, but artists like Chance The Rapper are inspiring others to build a strong team and do it on their own."