Grit: How to Survive and Thrive in the Music Biz Today

By Laila Biali

About five years ago, I had a memorable conversation with a top-­‐tier manager in New York City. One of my peers had approached him on my behalf to see if he might consider adding me to his roster. I knew this opportunity could be a game changer for my life and my career, and so my heart plunged when I heard the words (paraphrasing here), “I would probably love your stuff, but unless you’re Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift we can’t take you on. It’s too high a risk for us to develop new talent.”

Around that time, I was on the radar of a few big wigs—managers and agents for some of the music world’s largest acts—and I could see that most of them were standing on the precipice of a huge cliff, fearing that the “weight” (i.e. investment of time and resources) involved in launching new artists might very well send them teetering over the edge. We were in a bear market, and most folks were focused on not losing what they already had. Even some of the established artists I was working with, whose careers I had reckoned weren’t tethered to the music business’s shrinking balloon, were dropped by their labels or relegated to budgetary margins and in need of their own life support.

But there was (and is) a silver lining. For decades, there were only a few pathways to success in the music business, and artists had to be able to charm and win over the gatekeepers—label executives, critics and journalists, artist reps, tastemakers and radio hosts—in order to gain any momentum. The support of these people is still critical, but they are no longer gatekeepers. And over the past few years, social networking and technology have democratized things, allowing anyone access to just about anyone else via the worldwide web. YouTube has become a virtual busking ground and cyber performance space while laptop-­run, home-‐based studios have enabled artists to put out albums without the need for a five­‐figure budget.

Now we face new challenges, like oversaturation (the proliferation of so many artists that it’s difficult to distinguish oneself amidst the din of competing voices) and a “fast-­food” music culture in which listeners aren’t often inclined to give an artist more than a few seconds of airtime before moving onto something else.

So how do we survive and thrive in this new economy? One word: Grit.

If you’re a Ted Talks fan like me, you’ve probably noticed that grit has become a buzzword in education forums. Experts are saying that the students graduating and rising to the top of their fields these days are not just those with the most talent and smarts, but rather those with grit. Grittiness, or strength of character as evidenced by courage and resolve, is what enables students to make it. More than ever, this is also true of artists. We need to be courageous and resolute in order to succeed because we are now the primary forces steering and propelling our careers forward. We have more freedom, and also much more responsibility. So know who you are, where it is you want to go and how you need to get there; but remember that, while smarts, talent and opportunity will carry you some of the way, what will propel you through thick and thin and keep you pushing onwards to the big finish is, more than anything else, your grit.

[Editor’s Note: Laila plays the last show in her residency at SubCulture in NYC tonight! Catch her at 7:30PM.]

Award-­winning Canadian Jazz pianist, vocalist and songwriter Laila Biali has toured with Suzanne Vega, Chris Botti and Paula Cole and recorded with and supported Sting. She takes the best of pop, rock and soul, informs it with her knowledge of Jazz and weaves it into her musical arrangements. Her latest studio recording Tracing Light received a JUNO nomination for “2011 Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year” and her most recent release Live in Concert, recorded live in February 2012 in front of a gracious audience at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, Canada, captures the spirit of live performance so essential to Jazz. Laila is also a member of the all female New York based neo-­‐ Classical crossover quartet Rose & the Nightingale whose members tour with Grammy award-­‐winner Esperanza Spalding. Her accolades include “SOCAN Composer of the Year” and “Keyboardist of the Year” at Canada’s National Jazz Awards. She currently splits her time between New York City and Toronto.

#TCVideoFridays – May 31st 2013

Last #TCVideoFridays edition for May! Take a break from the heat and check out these music videos from TuneCore Artists…

Tiffany Alvord, “Never Lover Boy”

Charlie Straight, “Coco”

Giorgia Allegra, “Stars”

Atwater Men’s Club, “My Life’s a Dream”

Lucy Schwartz, “You Are You Are”

Ali Dee, “Sweet Southern Song”

Lindsey Stirling & William Joseph, “Halo Medley”

Sam Sallon, “Kathy’s Song”

Peet Project, “Wanna Have a Party”

We Still Dream, “Endless”

Do you have a video of a song you distributed through TuneCore? Tag us on Twitter (@TuneCore) and use the hashtag #TCVideoFridays with a link to your video.

World Up: Social Change Through Music Education

Last week TuneCore was invited to speak with the students participating in World Up. Located in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, World Up’s mission is to promote a greater understanding of the world through music, education, and technology literacy. The students at World Up  have been busy writing and recording original tracks, and are now learning what to do next. After deciding on roles—design, promotion, etc.—these young artists are now making a plan for their release.

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Chris Mooney, TuneCore’s Sr. Director of Artist Promotions and Strategic Relationships, met with the students to discuss their distribution and release options. For example, do they want to give the music away for free, release their EP through a digital distributor, set up a page with a tip jar option or is the plan to secure a label deal? Establishing a focus on the goals of the release and the musicians was stressed; don’t just make music and let it sit there without a plan in place.

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J. Dash, Hoodie Allen, and Boyce Avenue were offered as examples of what an independent artist can accomplish outside of a record deal, with the tools available online and through team-building with marketing and distribution companies. An overview was provided to try and help the students understand the six legal copyrights of all composers, as discussed in depth in a TuneCore Guide. Questions about sampling, Girl Talk, beats, and other topics were voiced, and answered as best as possible. To finish the conversation, the students shared with Chris their visions of video promotion and cover art—both were great.

World Up students are well on their way to making their first EP and TuneCore is happy to be able to play a role in educating them on the opportunities available in this modern music industry…

New Music Tuesday: May 28, 2013

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?


Akira Kosemura


Never Met You (Acoustic Production)
Tom Law


One for the Road
Sam Sallon


Nobody Loves Like You
Griffin Anthony


It Ain’t
Ali Dee


Peet Project




Mark of the Beat
Poppy Brothers


Petrece Cu Stana Izbasa
Stana Izbasa


Boomerang EP
Lucy Schwartz


Selected Works 2000 – 2009
Olga Virezoub

TuneCore Announces Programs to Drive Artist Revenue

Industry leader, TuneCore, launches customer referral program and music social sharing.

New York, New York, May 28, 2013

TuneCore, the premier digital music distributor with one of the highest revenue-generating music catalogs in the world, announced two new ways for their artists to earn more money and expand their music-buying fan bases, both based on the business-building power of social sharing.

The first initiative is the Refer-A-Friend customer referral program, the only loyalty program of its kind offered by a music distributor. The program gives artists the opportunity to earn cash rewards when they successfully refer friends to TuneCore through their social media networks.

“The vast majority of TuneCore Artists enthusiastically recommend TuneCore to their friends and a large amount of our growth is a direct result of these referrals. As a thank you for their loyalty, we decided to implement a way to give back to those who are recommending our services to their friends,” says Scott Ackerman, TuneCore COO.

“The Refer-A-Friend program is a win-win for us all: our artists benefit from earning cash rewards, and their friends (and our new customers) get all the value TuneCore offers including: the lowest first-year album distribution fee, the benefit of keeping 100% of their music sales, detailed accounting and reporting, top-notch customer care and Publishing Administration to collect worldwide songwriter royalties.”

The Brothers Burn, the first TuneCore band to earn a Refer-A-Friend cash reward, is a big supporter of the program, says, “TuneCore has consistently made their artists a priority and they continue to find ways in which to help artists benefit from their services, whether through their affordable music distribution services, shared industry advice, and now, through the new referral loyalty program.”

The power of social sharing is further leveraged by TuneCore’s newly implemented music sharing functionality — enabling artists to easily share their existing or new releases with their fan network. TuneCore is encouraging their artists to use the power of the Internet and social media networks to promote their music and drive more sales.

To learn more about TuneCore’s products and services, go to

About TuneCore

TuneCore is the premiere digital music distributor with one of the largest music catalogs in the world. Since its launch in 2006, over 1.8 billion TuneCore Artists’ music units have been downloaded or streamed, generating over $250 million in revenue earned by TuneCore Artists, ranging from indie artists to high-profile performers.

For an annual flat fee, TuneCore Distribution provides an easy-to-use, affordable digital solution for artists to get their music distributed worldwide to iTunes, Amazon MP3, Spotify, Rdio, Google Play, and other major download and streaming sites. Artists keep 100% of their sales revenue and all their rights.

TuneCore Publishing Administration, using a web-based interface, gives songwriters worldwide the ability for TuneCore to license and register their compositions globally for a one-time flat fee, collect royalties from over 60 countries and deposit the royalty revenue directly into their TuneCore accounts. Driven by in-house Creative, TuneCore actively markets compositions for synch licensing agreements for music placements in TV, film, video games, mobile applications, and other medias.

TuneCore continues to support the international artist community with the launch of TuneCore Canada in 2011 and TuneCore Japan in 2012.

#TCVideoFridays – May 24th 2013

You know what Friday means… we’ve got you covered with 10 great music videos to kick off the holiday weekend.

Nikki Lang, “My Sad Hero”

The Spring Standards, “Heavy Home”

D-MAUB, “I’m Me”

Irv da Phenom, “Burn it Down”

Kav, “Dirty Rejects (feat. Zombie Boy)”

Hannah Bethel, “No Where Left to Roam”

Lil Scooter Tha Best, “Cuming Thru”

AsapSCIENCE, “The New Periodic Table Song”

The Mouse Outfit, “Sit Back (feat. Truthos Mufasa & Black Josh)”

Spoil Engine, “Nerve Cell”

Do you have a video of a song you distributed through TuneCore? Tag us on Twitter (@TuneCore) and use the hashtag #TCVideoFridays with a link to your video.