SXSW 2024: Randy Jackson Says Emerging Artists Should Prioritize Authenticity and Live Touring

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With decades of experience between them in A&R, artist management, and record label work, Paula Moore and Randy Jackson were well-positioned to offer guidance to SXSW 2024 attendees in the audience.

Moore, the co-CEO of Greater Than Distribution, is widely recognized as the first female senior-level A&R research executive in the music industry. During the 60-minute fireside chat, both Moore and Jackson aimed to deconstruct what it truly takes to have longevity in music by drawing on lessons learned from navigating industry changes and working closely with iconic artists over the years. Through sharing both successes and failures, Moore and Jackson hoped to provide perspective that would help the next generation of songwriters and performers navigate challenges and maximize opportunities in today’s music business.

#1 – Understanding Who You Are as an Artist

Jackson shared stories from his long career working with artists like Journey and producing hit songs.

He emphasized the importance of authenticity and truly understanding oneself as an artist, stating that artists must be comfortable embracing who they truly are in order to connect with audiences. 

Both panelists agreed the volume of music being released makes it challenging for emerging talent to break through. They advised using social media to promote one’s vision and build community around their work. Jackson said an artist’s brand identity must be unique and cohesive.

#2 – Look Outside Your “Inner Circle”

Songwriting was highlighted as a crucial skill that can sustain long-term careers as artists or songwriters. Collaboration was also deemed important for growth, though maintaining control of one’s creative vision remains key.

When asked about signing an artist like Jack Johnson early in her career, Moore admitted her doubts stemmed from not fully comprehending his sound at the time. 

Jackson shared lessons learned from failures in artist development due to clashes in creative direction between himself and musicians. Both stressed the need for honest and constructive feedback between artists and their teams, specifically seeking that critical feedback, even if harsh, from someone outside one’s inner circle that helps these artists gain objectivity to grow. 

Discussion touched on changes in the industry with technology disrupting traditional models. Jackson believes streaming undervalues music but touring and live performances remain important revenue sources. Networking, securing high-profile collaborations or “co-signs,” and maintaining a consistent online presence were presented as strategies for independent and emerging artists. 

#3 – Prioritize Live Touring

While streaming undervalues music, paying very little to artists, Jackson said that touring and live performances remain key revenue sources that emerging artists should focus on to build sustainable careers and audiences – beyond digital platforms.

Post-pandemic, touring became even more vital for artists financially and career-wise once restrictions were lifted. He added that artists can make 5x more money from touring that from streams. 

For emerging artists, the experience of being on the road provides invaluable experience that can help them improve their stage presence, musicianship, and connection with their evolving audiences – beginning with touring regionally at first to build those roots in local scenes. As popularity increases, that’s where it makes sense to begin expanding to outside regions.