Originally published on The Industry Cosign December 21, 2014
The music business is notorious for cutting the careers of the talented to a point where disgust and anger usually controls the emotions of those talented enough to get a deal. Many different reasons and theories surround the thought process as to why it happens, but usually, it’s among those signed to a major label.
The independent artists usually fly under the radar because they sometimes lack the major muscle and marketing machine of the majors. This also cuts short the careers of some who don’t and/or can’t get the necessary exposure to sustain a lucrative career.
There are always exceptions to the rule. One such example is Eric Roberson, a veteran performer who perhaps does as many shows as more popular artists. He just completed his tenth studio album and has no plans to stop. He may very well be your favorite artist’s favorite artist.
The Industry Cosign discusses with Roberson his longevity on the scene, how he balances family life and his career, and why he has been challenged to take the business aspect of his career more seriously.
A true veteran in the music game, yet you are not as popular as you should be in accordance to your talent. How do you feel about not being as popular as a, let’s say, Trey Songz, having the industry knowledge, experience, and respect of industry folks?
I am more than fine with it. I have the great opportunity to make a living doing what I absolutely love to do. At the same time, I have a great fan base, but can walk the streets with my kids. I’m honestly not supposed to be here. I had the deals that would have allowed me to be say, a Trey Songz, and those deals didn’t work out for me. But I realize I am right where I am suppose to be. Still growing and still getting better. So no complaints over here.
You’ve recently released your tenth album, “The Box.” How does it feel being in business long enough to be able to release a tenth album?
I remember opening for Roy Ayers and him telling me he had over 100 albums. I don’t know if I will ever catch him but I’m proud of the 10 we have done so far. I feel I have another 10 to 20 left in me. But once again, I feel blessed to have the opportunity and abilities to put out this many albums. I know this spot is not guaranteed.
How do you view the business of doing business in this fickle industry and how do you stay relevant so you can continue to do business?
My fans and my peers challenged me to take the business more serious. Trying to expand and compete with the major labels will only help the independent movement as a whole. I’ve never done well with the fickle side of the business. I don’t make music to please everyone. But for those who can get down with it, we will be over here rocking. I never focused on being relevant. I more focused on being honest. That may have hurt me a lil in the business, but I think the people I have worked with appreciate that about me.
Being an artist who is also an entrepreneur must be a big task, especially being as consistent as you have been in releasing music and performing. How do you conduct business as an independent artist? Do you have a team and how different (if indeed it is different) is your approach to conducting business and doing music?
I have an amazing administrative and musical team. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them. My number one goal is to make those around me better and for them to push me to be better as well. I honestly think my approach to business and music are the same. I ask a lot from who ever I am working with. I trust them and their decisions, but will fight for what I feel. Creating a marketing plan is just like writing a song. It has to feel right or it’s not going to work. And I fight the “musician is always late” myth. I like to be on time whether it’s for a show or a meeting. How you execute is how you will be rewarded.
As successful as you are as an independent artist, have you ever wondered how things would be if you were signed to a major label? I’m sure you are satisfied with how things have worked out for you, but where do you think you’d be if you had taken a different route by being directly involved with a major label earlier in your career?
Yeh, I have wondered that but I basically believe that it wouldn’t have worked. I am not the kind of artist that fits in today’s music business. I have certain songs on my albums that I know I would not have been able to do if I was signed to a major. There’s no fame or fortune I would trade those songs for. Besides, the artists you hear now was improved by the no’s and the door slams, those long train rides from New York after a horrible meeting with an A&R. All that showed up in my songs. If it was given to me easier, I would have taken it for granted and I would not be here doing this interview with you now.
Besides the music, are you involved in any other businesses or are you planning to do anything else outside of music?
I work with different charities where and when I can, but no other businesses yet. Running our label and touring take up enough time at the moment. I have an uncle who is a very successful business man and he’s always says, “Organized growth is the key.” That’s what I focus on. In time I plan to have our label as powerful as a major label. I look forward to the ability to sign and put out other artists that I really admire.
How do you balance your career and family life?
Like I said, this business takes a lot of time. For me, I try to keep my family around it while I am doing it. My kids were in and around the studio the whole time while we were recording this album. If you listen closely, you might hear them on a song or two. I have a limit for how long I will be on the road away from my family. And when I am home I shut it all down. You have to, or you will never enjoy that pure quality time with a loved one.
Name one mistake you’ve made in your career that if you could have a do over, you’d make a different move and how would you have done it knowing what you know now.
Not trusting my “Spidey Sense.” I haven’t gotten ripped off by a janky promoter much in my career, but when it has happened, my Spidey Senses were telling me to pull out. We run a much tighter ship now and if someone is even sounding like they don’t have their business together, we politely remove ourselves from the equation.