11 Things I Learned While Making An Album

photo by Pachakuteq Visualz - @justwant2shoot / jewelry by @youluvlinkz
photo by Pachakuteq Visualz – @justwant2shoot / jewelry by @youluvlinkz

In a few days, the album that took years to put together will finally be released and one project will come to a completion. The years that it took to put it together provided a substantial amount of lessons – some that will forever be engraved in my mind. Here are some of the lessons that I have learned:

1) Not everyone will believe and support you…
This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn that still doesn’t sit right with me to this day. Many close family members of mine absolutely objected to my ambitions and to my path along the music industry. Many people who referred to me as their “best friend” or “sister” have never made it to any of my shows, have never once contributed anything towards my vision or did not send their blessings. At first, I was extremely upset about this, but as the years passed by, I started to accept it and even use this concept as part of my stage name. I can still love those that do not believe in me or show support. For those that stuck with me from the start, supported me and came to my aid, I have a special spot for them in my heart.

On a funnier note, it was almost always the people who didn’t support me who wanted to know if I had a private jet, made a million or hung out with Oprah yet. I am still baffled by this concept. To each their own, I guess…

2) Being a female in this industry sucks sometimes…
The music industry is dominated by men. That is a given. On numerous occasions, I’ve walked in to a studio and realized that a majority of men believe women have no clue what they are doing in the studio and simply belong in the booth. I started producing music when I was 12 and know most of the terminology despite not getting a formal education in it. Yet, going into a studio and being told in patronizing way what “reverb” is, or being considered a “diva that expects everyone to bend over and kiss your feet” as one engineer put it, is a constant. First off, feet kissing to me is disgusting! It’s unacceptable. Nicki Minaj once said “When I am assertive, I’m a “b*tch”. But when a man is assertive, he’s a boss”. Many women in the industry embrace that title. I had to learn it too. No matter how many times you say “please” or “thank yous”, they will still assume you are being a b*tch, even if they are the ones that are messing up. You are expected to suck it all in and smile and be perky and happy and not get technical or ask for anything. It’s not only in the music industry that this happens.

3) Haters will always hate…
This is a given. People will always say you can’t sing, you can’t dance, you have no talent, go do something else, you’re not pretty enough, you’ll never make it, you’re not good enough and much more. What people say will seep into your mind and affect what you do. The lesson I took from hearing this is that everyone has their own opinion; just keep doing you. To make this lesson stick even harder, I would list (in my mind) people who have been told the same thing but are successful today: Oprah, Shakira, Rihanna, Destiny’s Child, Beyonce, JK Rowling, Mozart, Madonna, Anna Wintour, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates… Need I list more?

4) People do get frustrated…
That goes with anything that you work on in a group. Working to perfect something is hard work. Many drafts are needed to get the best sound possible with what you have, many deadlines are set, things to be done, places to go, long hours to work, planes to catch, videos to shoot, messages and emails to get back to, never enough time to do anything, you wind up neglecting yourself on numerous occasions… that is the messy part of the business. Not only do I have to keep my frustrations low and have an abundance of patience, but also have to handle everyone else’s frustrations and be even more patient for them so that things can be done. This is part of managing big projects. I had to learn to just forgive, let go and keep the vision in mind.

5) Its not easy…
People see the artist having fun, going to studio, spending money, having a makeup artist, being on stage and getting press attention, photo shoots and the works and they assume that they are living the life. It’s part of what we do. Behind that, though, is an artist that hasn’t slept for days, hasn’t had a moment to eat, hasn’t spoken to family and friends in weeks, is expected to make it for every event, shoot, show and rehearsal and most likely just got 2-3 death threats and has to keep smiling and trekking while being told they look like a “whale”, “can’t sing for their life” and “should just kill yourself”. Easy, peasy!

6) Making an album will leave you broke…
Not a lot of people will honestly tell you this before you start. There are stories of people who put out albums for next to nothing – they are blessed! Some have labels covering those expenses which are great if it doesn’t have to be recouped. They are honestly lucky! But in making this album, I’ve learned that it costs thousands to make even a low budget album and even then, you still may not have the funds to fulfill the whole album and get it out there. Production, rehearsal space, studio time, producers, engineers, mixing, mastering, legal services, business education, equipment, marketing material, graphic designers, song registration for iTunes, websites, professional email addresses, distribution, replication, PR and much more! This adds up to thousands upon thousands of dollars and easily puts you in debt until you start making money. You do have to work – and I’ve had my fair share of working many odd jobs aside from modeling to help pay for this: from fast food to retail to housekeeping. This is why I thank everyone who has helped me, even if I was making financial mistakes and messing up a lot along the way.

7) Relationships…
Never mix love with music! It is a bad idea! They can help and support and do little things, but do not mix it together. Business and romance don’t mix unless you are the exception (eg, Beyonce and Jay-Z) and even that is questionable. That is all.

8) Practice doesn’t always necessarily make perfect…
I commend anyone who can get up on a stage and belt out tunes like they are nothing. For many artists like me, despite how much we practice and work on it, when we have to perform in front of people, we lose it! I had to work really hard to get where I am – starting with karaoke. I remember being so shy and nervous once that I actually sang only one verse of a song and stood there in near tears for the rest of the song because I was shaking too much to continue. It is hard! But over the years, I’m constantly working on my craft with coaching, rituals, emotional mapping and just getting up and doing it.

9) There will always be someone better than you…
Someone once told me this and I didn’t believe them until closer to the end of the album. It’s easy to get caught up in the album process thinking you are the best thing since Wi-Fi. But you are not the only one. This lesson made me focus more on the music I love, putting an element of myself in each song and believing in what I do humbly.

10) Take risks…
Easy ways will always exist; easy will give you easy results. The hard way allows for you to have full creative control, stand out among the crowd and get your vision out there, although in order to do that, you must take risks and try new things. One of the biggest risks I took was going in to pop/electronic music as opposed to R&B. Many people typecast me as an R&B singer because of my skin color, which would be easy to fit and believe. Once upon a time, I was working with a label that kept trying to convert my sound. Even when collaborating, I still get many artists (despite listening to my tracks) who are expecting gospel! I chose pop music though. It’s what I feel passionate about. It was a huge marketing risk but I am happy about my decision as I get to put out music I believe in and add my touch to it.

11) Always stay humble…
There’s a difference between good marketing and begging for fame. On this journey, I’ve met people in all stages of their passion – from Gene Simmons to young girls who just learned what music is and have taken lessons about the industry from all of them. It is easy to get caught up with invitations to fancy shows and events and the adoration of those who want to be where you are in your career. Always remember that you can lose it all in a day. Always remember that it wasn’t easy to get to the point you are in. Always remember to be as kind as possible to those starting out as they may be at your level someday.

All these lessons helped me to make this the best album I can put out with the resources and support I had and I really do thank everyone who has been there, helped, supported, enhanced and contributed to the completion of it. I even want to thank those that weren’t so supportive and compromised it as – without you – it would be way too easy and no lessons would have been learnt.

“illfated” is a sarcastic statement to those who believe that your quest, your dream or your goal will be filled with dire fortune. I encourage you to be illfated!

amanie. xx

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