This via Bob Lefsetz:
1. Listen to a lot of records.
A knowledge of music is the best education. Spend more time listening than posting on Facebook. The musicians of yore could play every lick on their favorite blues records, can you?
2. Learn how to play.
Start with lessons. Only give them up when you surpass your teacher. Know how to play what you don’t like. It’ll come in handy, just like studying algebra.
We’re interested in what you have to say. You can wring emotion with a note, but begin composing lyrics too. Music blew up in the sixties because we were interested in more than the surface, we wanted to know who these acts were, we wanted to know what they had to say.
If you’re not frustrated, if you’re not chomping at the bit, you’re not doing it right. Sure, post the results to the Net, but don’t expect anybody to pay attention. And promotion is passe. Don’t tell people to listen, go back and cut more until you create something so good it spreads by itself.
5. Use what’s come before as a stepping off point, not as a blueprint.
Although you should know how to play the classics, your music should not sound just like the Beatles or Zeppelin, but different. If you haven’t got people scratching their heads, telling you to turn it down, you’re playing it too safe.
6. No one has the magic keys.
Top forty radio is a formula fed by a conveyor belt no different from the one at GM, but with a lot less innovation. If you’re interested in making a Cruze or a Camry, sign up. But it’s the aforementioned Prius which is sold out and unavailable, it’s what people want, what they’re willing to overpay for, even though GM killed its electric car. It takes a while for the public to catch up. The Prius was not an overnight success. Hipsters and the green signed up first, Toyota improved the product, gas prices went through the roof and voila, a mania! Manias are not manufactured, not ones that last, they’re all about being in the right place at the right time, anticipating the market, not playing it safe, but being dangerous.
7. If practice isn’t hard, you’re not doing it right.
No matter how much success you’ve had, if it’s become easy, if you’re repeating yourself, you’re on the road to failure.
8. Listen to no one but yourself.
Recruit information, but preferably from someone without a financial interest in your success. Musical artists are the last loners, they’re visionaries, they’re not part of the group, but outside it. If you’re showing up at the club or the Met Costume Ball you’re doing it all wrong. No one should be inviting you, they should be afraid of you, and if they do call you won’t go, because you know they’re trading on your success for their own benefit.