Today the Full Sail University Music and Entertainment Business students were visited by artist manager Ruta Sepetys, manager of Grammy Award-winning rock guitarist Steve Vai, who shared her wisdom gained through 20 years in the music industry. She has recently added novelist to her resumé, with her first book, “Between Shades of Gray.” Sepetys has also been featured in Rolling Stone’s Women in Rock issue, and is an adjunct professor at the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University. With Steve Vai, she also co-founded the Make A Noise Foundation to provide musical instruments, music education, and musical culture to young musicians who cannot afford it for themselves. Her talk was part inspiration, part cautionary tale for young professionals in entertainment. Here are five memorable quotes from her talk:
“Think like an entrepreneur, not an employee.” Sepetys shared a quote from Henry David Thoreau: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” We each have that “song” in us and matter what you do, you always have to keep pursuing your own creative passions. Don’t subject yourself to only thinking like someone else’s employee, no matter what job you have.
“Create a profit center for yourself.” The way you can bust your ass for 10 years, collect money for 10 years, then retire, is by building intellectual property. Be part of something that creates passive income – what she calls “mailbox money” – like songwriting. If you can figure out one new innovative way to monetize music, you could make millions.
“Don’t wait to be thanked.” As an artist manager, you’re there to make the artist look like a king or queen – not to build yourself up. You need to find a way to fulfill yourself creatively in other ways. You can’t wrap up your identity in the business. A good manager knows their place – you’re the helper, not the talent.
“Networking ‘up’ is not the only way.” Many people mistake networking for only trying to build relationships with people more successful than themselves. That’s a mistake. Build relationships with all the people around you, but remember that it’s about quality, not quantity. Always offer to give something first.
“Being cooperative matters more than being talented.” The primary reasons people fail are denial of reality and rejection of feedback. Never be too good for constructive criticism. You’ll find that the people who are most cooperative will get the most work and find success over people who are simply talented.