The music scene in London can be both amazing and terrifying. Amazing in the sense that there are a lot of opportunities to showcase your music, network with other musicians and music industry personnel as it is a city that attracts the best from all over the world. You see, I’m originally from Nigeria, and have been in the UK music industry for only about 3 years (still a bit of a newbie haha). I’ve been blessed to have met some incredible musicians over the past few years. It is truly an endless pool of talent.
However, this endless pool of talent makes it terrifying, as there “seems” to be more
creatives than there are opportunities, hence the cutthroat nature of the music business in this wonderful city. The music business can be cruel and every single one who fights on, despite the lows, is a WARRIOR. You see, when you’re faced with this reality, you either throw in the towel, or you work harder and smarter. If you meet a musician who has been in this industry for 5 years and over still cracking on; or the talented musicians who share their craft every day on the tube (often lugging heavy instrument cases far distances to be able to do this), doff your hat to them.
London has also taught me another valuable lesson: FIND YOUR TRIBE. Your music is not for everyone and everyone is not for you: A City of over 8.5million definitely has a scene for every type, style and kind of music you can think of. Too many people fail because they are trying to be another Ed Sheeran. No two people have the same journey. Why be like others when you can be, you know YOU? Are you fun and bubbly? Work it. Dark and mysterious? Do you. Go out there and do your thing.
All you need to do is find YOUR audience, and you will, eventually. You may run into an audience (or two, or some) that doesn’t dig your style, or are way more concerned about their beers than paying attention, but not to worry, its part of what my friend Simon Niles calls “a little bit of weeding”. Soon enough your fans will blossom; people who really “get” your music, and that connection…that connection is worth a dozen half-empty seats. London has taught me to develop thick skin and be confident – not to overthink things. One of my favourite quotes: “confidence is not ‘will they like me’, confidence is ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t’.” I’m learning to enjoy every moment, and that the Journey is often just as important as the destination. Unfortunately, there are a lot of shameless conmen and businesses that try to rip off musicians. Although there is a greater awareness about this now with musicians joining Facebook support groups that shame and name these folks, I feel like we can do better in calling them out as there are still numerous creatives (upcoming artists especially) who fall victim to them. It is extremely sad that some venues, promoters etc still operate the pay-to-play scam or want artists to do majority of promotion (you are a promoter for a reason). Or the fact that music A&Rs look at social media numbers to judge artists – which is insane as we all know plays, likes and follows can be bought. My thoughts on this? Go and out more and see artists play live. Stop sitting behind a laptop waiting for algorithms to make that decision for you – Algorithms cannot feel.
It’s worth mentioning that there are still some good ones out there. Benumu and Success Express Music do deserve a special mention as they have been some of the best champions of independent artists I have encountered. Lovely venues like Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen and Camden Assembly are affordable state of the art venues that are great for independent artists.
In all I would say that the music scene in London can be tricky but once you get the hang of it, you are good to go. Resilience, Networking, and being your genuine self, in my experience, is key to thriving in this city.