Dear 1999

Dear 1999

I got an email from my friend Cameron Mizell who runs the site MusicianWages.com recently.  He told me Musician Wages was going to be doing a blogging blitz where lots of folks who blog about the music business would write about the topic “If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?”

That skinny kid framed by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun and Jason Flom, then the President of Lava / Atlantic was me in 1999.  I was an A&R representative at Lava at the time.  Although it wasn’t really that long ago it was quite along time ago in terms of what has changed in music and business.

If I recall correctly:

  • The Matrix came out that year.
  • The swing music revival was just about at its peak.
  • Something called Napster showed up.
  • Cher’s “Believe” introduced most people to auto-tune
  • No Itunes – no Ipod.

It was slightly later – in early 2000 when the Camp Chaos video went viral – at least in the circles I traveled in at the time.  I never thought that piracy and file sharing would have been so rampant.  I remember thinking this video was funny…I guess it still is in a much darker way.  I can’t say exactly why but it reminds me of that time period a great deal.

That’s more than enough of a stroll down memory lane though.  The question at hand?  What one piece of advice would I give myself?  Other than the suggestion to my mid twenties self that spending a majority of my disposable income in bars was probably not an advisable plan for the future I suppose I would really want to convey to myself the importance of being patient, persistent and consistent.

(Slow and Steady... Still trying to get the hang of it.)

By nature I’m a pretty black and white thinker.  I have a very addictive personality and patience has never been one of my strengths.  This combination of traits have made for more challenges than I could possibly describe in a blog post.  Thankfully, I have started to find ways around this and forced myself to find some semblance of a normal pace with my work and my life.  It has taken ten years of looking at my life and the lives and careers of my friends and peers to realize that those who never strayed from their goals and found ways of working towards them slow and steady seemed to be the people who have made the most impact.

Patience, Persistence & Consistency.  I have no significant regrets in my life.  In truth I find myself more regretful about the things I didn’t do than the things I did.  I believe that trying my hand at many different jobs and careers was a requirement to help me figure out what I did and didn’t want to do but if only I could hop in to a Delorean and pay my 1999 self a visit I would just try and explain that what I have seen and experienced in the last ten years leads me to believe that there aren’t any shortcuts (at least not ones that tend to last) and that people who become great at whatever they do tend not to chase their goals at an unmanageable pace.  People who become great never seem to take their eyes off of their goals and make small strides as often as they can.  If I could speak to the guy I was in 1999 I would try to explain that just because something I tried to master didn’t happen for me quickly did not mean that it was not worth pursuing… It just meant it was going to take a while longer than I wanted it to.

I don’t really feel the need to translate that into what that means for a musician or a music executive except to say “stick with it” whatever “it” is.  I have been asked  few times throughout my life what I would pay to live the life I wanted to live and my response has never wavered – “any amount of money”.

Happy New Year all…

-Rick-