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Music journalist Jayson Rodriguez sat as moderator with music artists Russ, and YBN Cordae; General Manager of Asylum Records Gabby Palusso, Co-Founder of The Lights Global Dooney Battle, and Art of War artist manager Ro Williams to discuss the rewards and the hustling spirit of being a independent.
As Rodriguez opened the floor for the panelists to speak, he asked what they wanted to get across in this discussion and they all agreed that they were prepared to give an openly honest dialogue. “I’m here to piss somebody off and speak about independence, give y’all some gems,” Russ expressed.
Each panelist carefully described their opinions on what they believed an independent artist was and how they should carry themselves by giving personal accounts of the experiences they’ve encountered on their journeys. “An independent artist is someone that takes themselves out of being an artist first, they’re a CEO. As an artist, when you’re not independent, you kind of have a bit of autonomy where you can just move freely. Independence makes people step up and wear a lot of hats, which encompasses marketing, management, everything until you get to a place where you can get a dope team,” Williams said.
The level of transparency that continued to be a theme for the panel was highlighted as Battle explained his journey in helping independent artists expand on social media. “Truly being independent, you don’t have the label behind you. You out there grinding, you are distributing your own sh*t, 80/20 split and you own your masters,” Battle added.
The manager, who’s considered a social media guru, is responsible for the social success of Lil Terrio, Ice JJ Fish, and King Keraun. Additionally, Battle has helped make some hits chart for artists like Wale (“Body Like a Benz”) and DRAM (“Broccoli”), and the popular social media dance “Juju on that Beat” by Zayy. These accomplishments led to his management and social media expansion of Lil Pump.
As the panel discussion continued, hearing a fresh perspective from Peluso gave a clear perspective for upcoming independent artists. He expressed labels seeking to work with independent artists want for them to maintain their freedom and creative control, but to also help them roll their projects out. “Help them maintain control and give them the tools they need to not keep doing things over and over,” Gabby added.
Rodriguez continued to dig for deeper gems from the panelists by asking them to share their thoughts on self-sufficiency and putting in the work to succeed. The glaring truths from YBN Cordae and Russ added a raw standpoint that was praised. “You gotta learn how to move and network. When you see your favorite artist, don’t just run up and ask for a picture. You automatically separate yourself from somebody they can do business with and network with from a fan. Be more organic,” said Cordae. Russ would later add that by “being self-sufficient, you create this leverage that even if you end up not being a full-time engineer, you now know what goes into it.”
The panel truly confirmed that we’ve moved into an age of doing it for ourselves and those seeking to be an artist at this time should be set. YBN Cordae discussed that he used to study his craft by watching interviews and Russ co-signed by agreeing that his teenage years were spent similarly.
While major tips were being dropped, many in the audience were prepared for the Q&A portion. The experts continued to describe the importance of hustling in the independent artist industry by letting the audience know that there is no benefit in being afraid of the process. In closing, the takeaway was to “flip the struggle” added Russ to a Clark Atlanta University student who asked about maintaining a healthy mental space while grinding for the dream.