An open letter to a young artist…

Dear Young Artist,

I don’t know if you saw my previously posted open letter entitled, ‘Dear Major Label Music Executive’, but in it I lightheartedly poked fun at the music executives that were newly discovering Wakey!Wakey!

Previous to our indie self-released endeavors, we’d reached out to everysingle major label in the US. We were looking for partners to help release the albums that probably led you to this letter. Needless to say, they just didn’t get it. We were too indie, or too corporate. They couldn’t hear it on the radio. They didn’t care to listen to it at all. Whatever their reasons were, they all passed.

Now fast forward to May 19, 2010, the day I sit writing this. We’ve broken into the mainstream charts on iTunes, and without breaking it all down, things are going very well. As a result, not one or two, but EVERY SINGLE MAJOR LABEL has reached out to us within this very week. ”We’ve been following you for months.” “We see so much potential in your project.” I would love for just one of those A&R reps to just say, “I discovered your band on the soundscan reports for the first time this week. You seem to be doing something right. We’d love to share your profits, now that it’s going well and the hard work has been done.” I might actuallytake that person seriously. At least he or she would be honest.
I’m sure you can tell from my tone that I’m annoyed, and here’s why. I almost gave up. I almost never made our last album, because I never thought I’d be able to support a family as an artist, and I was just so beat down. After ten years of breaking my back, I actually started to believe these people.

So I just want to say, I just need to say this one thing, and I’ll get off my soapbox and go back to making music for a while. Dear Young Artist, please don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. Forget what these people say. 99% of them don’t know anything about art. All they can read are units sold. The world needs new and interesting voices like yours. Go make some noise. And remember that any label starts with a few people in a room saying, let’s release this record. Don’t go it alone. Ready the music as much as you possibly can, then build your own team. Find your own manager, your own PR, your own interns, your own distributor. Start simple and watch it grow.  But whatever you do, don’t expect the majors to help you. They can’t even help themselves. I’m not saying that Major Labels don’t serve a purpose. They’re great at curating the careers of long successful bands and artists, but the idea that there is any artist development inherent in a modern deal is a complete myth. For young artists to think that they’ll get any help jump starting a career is not only false, but extremely dangerous. Develop yourself. Believe in your art, then stand your ground.  If you make your music from an honest place, people will react. We can’t be mad at the dinosaur business model of the majors forever, but it is time that we put them in their place. Which, from my experience I can honestly say, is at the end of a long, very hard, and if done right, very rewarding road. Think of them as a retirement village at the end of a hard career. Fight while you have the breath and lay down when you’ve earned it.


Michael Grubbs


  • yock

    I'm from Senegal in Africa, i found you by watching one tree hill!! light Outside?? Just amazing!! i like that…. Keep going on that way u did a great job!

  • C. Rivera

    Caught the show last night at the Bowery. All I have to say is WOW!!!! Totally blown away. You guys sounded unbelievable live. You have a few fans for life in NYC. Keep doin what your doin! Come home soon to play again!

  • Chris

    Thankyou for not giving up, my soul is dancing right now!!

  • HollywoodKen

    You rock, Michael. I just want to say that I am very inspired by your words and your passion for your music. I'm very glad that you decided to record the album, even without the help of the majors. Your words are just what young (and even old) artists need to hear.

  • Mariana

    Micheal Grubbs represents what a true artist is all about. An artist that believed in his talent and music and never gave up. You are a true inspiration, not only to musicians but all human beings!!! Your music is just increadible and I can't wait to see you live in SF!!!

  • :)

    I'm from Norway 🙂
    I found you by watching one tree hill too. I just have to say that I really love your music. you're one of my favourite !! I get a feeling inside me when I'm listening to your music which I can not describe with words.

  • Iron Lung

    Hi Michael, i'm from Singapore. I am a musician myself (around 20 years) and been working in the music industry for 14 years. I totally agree with your opinion. And yes i also get to know Wakey Wakey from watching OTH. Your music is excellent and thanks for the spirit! In Singapore too, we cant be bothered with the majors and do everything on our own. Do our own recordings, distributions, we are our own managers, and organise our own gigs. Here's a link to our site

  • Erin

    As a theatre artist and educator (with a guilty pleasure for one tree hill..) I truly appreciate your words to young artists — they apply to all fields of artistry and are very inspiring to hear. Our contributions, our art matters. Not just to us personally but to the world as a whole. Your art – and your passion for that art Mr. Grubbs, makes me feel so full of emotion when I listen to it and so very happy inside.

    Thank you.