The Road to Success: feat. Thomas O’Keefe
March 27, 2017
Category: Staff Blogs
By Natalie Thompson, Coordinator of Operations & Student Engagement for Segue 61
*This blog is about The lecture on “success” that Thomas gave us in our Music Success Seminar*
These past few weeks at Segue 61, we’ve been taking a Music Success Seminar where we talk about what it means to be successful. This past week, our discussion on “Success” was led by the current tour manager for Weezer, Mr. Thomas O’Keefe. Thomas was once just like us; a young, hungry musician from North Carolina who was obsessed with punk rock music. In fact, he loved it so much that he couldn’t do anything else. You’ll start to notice this repeating pattern in the successful professionals of the music industry; an infectious obsession for music.
“How do you define success?” Thomas asked each one of the students. One by one he went around the room and asked “What does success mean to you?” The answers ranged all over the map; each student had his or her own perspective on what it meant to them. For some, if they could just make enough money to eat and pay rent while playing music, that would be enough. For others, the bar for success was set much higher.
Thomas went on to talk about who we look up to as musicians for inspiration; who’s recipes for success are we modeling as we create our own? If you’re a songwriter, for instance, you may study Bob Dylan and follow the path he took to get to where he is now. If you’re a rockstar, you may study how Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones got to where they are, and so on.
This is all great, right? You want to be successful in music, so you follow the music successes for inspiration. Thomas brought a more important question to the forefront: “What about the business part of it? It’s called the Music Business for a reason right?”
I looked around the room and noticed the crinkled foreheads and slow nods as each one us mulled this over in our heads.
As musicians and artists, especially at the young and hungry level that we’re at, it’s easy to forget that we are our own business. This is why some artists sign an agreement with a record label who has an entire team to “run” their business. Even then, the artist is still the CEO of the “company” and not totally exempt from the business side of things. What about before the record deal? Or, what happens if a record deal never comes your way? Does that mean you can’t be successful? Absolutely not. There are more resources available to us now than ever before. There’s nothing stopping us from creating our own music, publishing our own music, recording our own records and booking our own tours. When you think about it like that, it’s inspiring, but it also might be wake up call; if you want to be successful in the music industry, you are the only thing in your way. Even if you’re only mildly talented, If you work harder you’ll likely be more successful than someone who is “better” than you.
Thomas laid out his most basic recipe for success: “Work endlessly at it everyday—seven days a week, never stop, be smart, listen and learn, be awake when luck shows up, don’t waste time, and have fun while you’re doing it.” Everyday you should so something that takes you just a tiny step closer to your end goals. Whether it’s taking a lesson, playing an open mic, introducing yourself to the band you just heard, or saying hello to the person sitting next to you at the coffee shop. It’s a “slow methodical march to success” says Thomas, but anything worth having usually is.
Segue 61 is called a “Success Certificate” program. That doesn’t mean that every student who graduates from Segue 61 will be successful and we’re not offering a big plate of success. It means that we are offering all of the tools and resources—and then some—that you need to carve out your own path to success. Whether that be a record deal, a publishing deal, recording your own album, booking a nationwide tour, or just starting a band writing and playing music that you love. However you define success, we’re giving you the tools you need to make it happen; It’s up to you how you utilize them.
So, how do become successful in the music business? In the words of Thomas O’Keefe, “It’s simple: WORK HARD.”