several months ago on Facebook i asked people to list any questions they might have in regard to the music industry. i compiled a whole bunch of them and sent them off to several of my music-biz-friends. over the course of this year, on music mondays, i will share their answers with you. i think you'll be helped and inspired. it's like a little behind the scenes peak into the hearts and minds of artists, writers, producers and record company exec's.
i'm so pleased to start off this year with Nikki Leonti! she is a remarkable singer/songwriter that started out in the Christian music industry. we go waaaay back and i'm so glad to have reconnected in recent years and excited for her to share some of her experiences and wisdom with us here!
what part do you play within the music industry?
My Career in the music business started as a Gospel recording artist. It lead me to being a backing vocalist for Carrie Underwood and I was able to tour with her doing shows from "Saturday Night Live" to "Oprah"....during my tour with Carrie I decided to take a chance and try to do my own artist career as well as develop my dream to write for other singers. I started a duo called "Nikki & Rich" and continued to write in the meantime. My writings have lead me to being a writer on current Disney shows, several film and television shows, Robin Thicke and others....I've lent my vocals for artists like Demi Lovato, Cee-lo Green and Kelly Clarkson. I work for The Fox Show Glee and continue to pursue writing!
briefly describe how you got where you are; tell us your story.
My start in music was singing in church and doing evangelistic work with my family throughout Southern California. At the age of 14 I was discovered in my hometown of Corona by Christian producers, John and Dino Elefante. They flew me to Nashville and I recorded my album in their studios.
what advice would you give someone that wants to do what you do?
The advice I would give is to be ok with hearing no....NO performance is too small....and YOU just never know. I have learned so many valuable lessons. I would shoot for the stars and want to work with the big name writers and producers. Many of the people that I had access to work with that weren't the big named people ended up taking over!! Great music is Great music. Someone with a big name may want to redirect and mold you to a different sound and image.... Fight for the originality that makes you uniquely yourself. Even the most successful big wigs can be clueless when it comes to artist development.
what's your take on the future of the industry? where do you see it going? will digital music take over the world?
I see the music in and of itself as a business card to sell the product and merchandising that you create within your own personal branding. Unfortunately, unless a way is created to prohibit the ability to download music illegally, there is going to be a shortage of funds that derive from making the music itself. Artists will be dependent upon touring and merchandising sales, as well as creative alternate means of generating income through other developments of your brand.
n light of the current climate of the music business, would you advise an artist to seek support from a label or take the more independent, do-it-yourself route of social media outlets ie; kickstarter? or what would you say are the pros and cons of each?
I for one am an advocate of doing it yourself. I have had the record deals and have seen the amount of money that you ultimately generate through mass sales within a company. It fails in comparison to the smaller scale of sales you acquire when doing it on your own. We can't all fund our own records...hire publicists...or independent radio support. However, if you build an online presence, core group of fans and have generated something that presents a sense of value and substance....a label will take you seriously and you in turn can have leverage in negotiating a deal that places you in a position of retaining more ownership of your brand.
what advice would you give an aspiring song writer as far as how to go about pitching a song to an artist?
Pitching to artists is very difficult. I think I would suggest to do co-writes with established writers that have either publishing deals or access to people that can plug your music. You can also try and get in touch with the actual producer that is involved with the artist.
what is the best way for an aspiring artist to get their foot-in-the-door?
Don't bother people. I think people can be immediately turned off by being overly pushy. It's a difference of being hungry and not thirsty. Be assertive....extremely likeable and on top of your business....BUT try and do it in a way that is inviting and clever. It's completely a relationship game. Every person counts and every moment matters. If you know the receptionist at WIlliam Morris....stay in touch and check in with her. She could end up being an agent. This goes for everything. Establish your relationships and stay in touch. Don't appear out of the blue when you want something or when that person finds success. Take every opportunity to be heard. If you were made to do this and you have what it takes, every moment and performance will generate something positive.
how does one get a demo heard by the right people?
Demos are being sent left and right to every A&R in the game. If you generate your own presence/buzz and present something that is uniquely your own you can get heard. Side note: If you ever get in a position where you have the opportunity to sit in front of someone of influence....KNOW WHO YOU ARE! Great singers get in situations where they can do any style or genre. It's a wonderful gift....however...executives don't care. If you don't know your style and direction, a label will not know what to do with you. When you find yourself, they will find you.
how do you balance motherhood with life on the road or in the studio?
It takes a village. I am fortunate to have some good friends that help me to be a Mom and work! I encourage women to continue to follow their dreams and not feel that having kids or past difficulties should hinder that! It's a huge passion of mine. I have come into contact with so many women who just give up. I say keep going! You can do it all!! If you ground yourself right and surround yourself with support, you can be a MOM...a singer....a writer....and a DOER!
what artist(s)/music are you listening to and/or inspired by right now?
I am constantly inspired by James Taylor. Always.