Andrew Belle is Running a Marathon
The old adage “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” holds no truer than in artist development. I try to keep this fact top of mind in my career as manager of Andrew Belle, the rising singer/songwriter. Both when strategizing long-term or pursuing smaller, discrete opportunities, I allow this analogy to help guide my decision-making process on his behalf. Here’s how I see it:
First and foremost, to be a good marathoner, you need to be born with something—inherent stamina, strength, long legs—that predisposes you to be successful. I see this as akin to talent—as a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, or performer (or many of the above). It is incredibly important to honestly evaluate where your or your client/partner’s skill lies. It is extremely competitive out there, and succeeding as a professional musician takes more than perseverance.
That being said, work ethic, discipline, and a stubborn determination to succeed are required, in addition to talent. Training for the marathon that is a music career is incredibly daunting and does not offer short cuts. A realistic understanding of the obstacles ahead and the preparation necessary to overcome them, coupled with an undaunted optimism that the finish line is attainable, will position the musician to begin the marathon. As Andrew Belle’s manager, I was lucky in the aforementioned categories (as many managers before me have been). While I instinctively identified Andrew’s talent, only over time did I discover his commitment to his career and willingness to do everything necessary to succeed. Many incredibly talented artists don’t possess this quality.
Now for the marathon itself, pace is the key metric when evaluating the quality of the race in which the artist is participating. Sprint out of the gates, and despite an early lead, chances are you won’t finish with a quality time, if at all. Run too slowly, and your participation in the marathon becomes somewhat inconsequential. The key to a successful race is to run at a consistent pace, or even achieve “negative splits”, where each mile is incrementally faster than the previous one across the full 26.2.
I view the sprinter as an artist heavily dependent on a large marketing budget and traditional media (e.g. radio), or on a momentary marketing tactic (e.g. a “Youtube artist” relying on covers to showcase their voice and land a label deal), whose strategy hinges on the ability to attract a massive amount of fans (and customers) instantaneously. While this strategy may reap short-term benefits (an early lead), it is rarely sustainable. On the other hand, an artist that lives strictly in her comfort zone—local gigs, a few online fans, the occasional unheralded release of new music and other content—will struggle to develop a career worth talking about. Managing Andrew, I constantly balance our pursuit of large and small opportunities, our aggressiveness in promotion, and his creation of new music and other content with an element of restraint, recognizing the goals and length of the journey on which he has embarked. Ultimately, it comes down to developing awareness and loyalty among potential fans at a pace where momentum continues to build, though the fan’s experience with Andrew and his music are never so brief as to feel fleeting.
Of course, this is far from the only artist development strategy out there, and certain factors—genre of music, age of the artist, financial resources available, for example—may dictate the pace the artist should run the marathon, or whether to run the marathon at all. Maybe Lady Gaga isn’t a marathoner, but rather a career sprinter. Each race is short, with an instant, clear outcome. Each new radio single released lives on its own merit, relative to the competition of that moment. Granted, win enough sprints, and something longer term can develop—appearance fees at events, sponsorships, intimidation of opponents, and even forgiveness in the event of an isolated loss all contribute to the career of the sprinter. Her brand of pop music and her competitive field are a constant sprint filled with other sprinters.
However, age is inevitable, maintaining form is expensive and extremely taxing, and injuries followed by sub-par performances are hard to avoid as a sprinter (runner or musician). For Andrew Belle, we have chosen the marathon, which although the race is arduous at times, Andrew and I have know doubt he will ultimately finish in phenomenal time. Actually, I’m not sure it ever ends—we’ll just continue to shoot for negative splits.