Watershed Frontman on Why Talent Will Only Get You So Far

Watershed Frontman on Why Talent Will Only Get You So Far


I love the music industry

Everything I do is within this industry, but it’s a mistake to think that because you’re in a band, that’s the only thing you can do or be. I’m first and foremost a songwriter. I’m the founding member of Watershed, and I employ the other band members.

I actively position myself as an industry leader, and I mentor younger artists and give talks at schools. All industries are multi-faceted and offer so much if you’re willing to look for the opportunities. The secret is to go out there and make it happen.

Related: How Singer-Songwriter Entrepreneur Jimmy Nevis Balances It All

Success is ours to create

That’s always been how we approach success in Watershed. I’ve created an entity, Untapped Sound, that’s really the business arm of the band and my song-writing skills. Through Untapped Sound, we own all of our own sound and lighting equipment.

This is important, because it means we don’t have to wait for show organisers to approach us, but can go out and create shows instead.

We were the first band to approach the Barnyard

There aren’t many venues in Joburg, which is why it makes a big difference when we can recognise places that would suit our sound, style and audience.

We were the first at Barnyard, and now bands performing there are a regular event. Outdoor restaurants and wine farms are also great opportunities, and we’ll approach the owner and explain who we are, what we do and how we’d like to collaborate on an event.

Always think out the box

Watershed’s band members rely on me to drum up business, and since I pay salaries, regular shows are a must. We went through a stage where we were playing a lot of corporate gigs, but corporate budgets have tightened considerably over the last few years, so we’ve needed to focus on other areas.

I’m a big believer in always looking ahead

The annuities of song-writing are an amazing revenue generator because you write them once and they’re played thousands of times. Over and above our Watershed projects, I write for Idols and other bands.

I’d love to take two years off, travel to Nashville, the UK and LA and just write, collaborating with other writers and filling my vault with content.

We’re very proud of Watershed’s longevity, but we know that a lot of our continued success is due to how closely we pay attention to our market. Our original audience is growing older, and want to hear the music they’ve always loved. At the same time, we need to attract new listeners.

It’s tricky being everything to everyone, so we’ve found that staying true to our brand values works well for us, while also moving with the times. You can’t just do what you’ve always done and expect to stay relevant and successful, but at the same time, brand consistency is important. It’s a delicate line.

The music industry is changing, and we need to change with it

The lifespan of many bands can be really short. They have one great hit and then disappear. People aren’t buying albums anymore. They buy songs. This means you can’t put out an album with three great songs and six fillers anymore. Every song needs to be a ‘single’.

It also means that you need to be out there playing to your audiences. They need to experience your songs, and love seeing you play live – then they’ll want to carry your songs with them, as a soundtrack to their own lives. It’s the reason we’re taking longer to put out our new album.

We finished it, took another look and realised, no, it’s not good enough. Everything we put out must be the best it can be. No compromises.

You need to be in it with passion

For me, it’s all about the music. Sometimes something amazing happens out of the blue. For example, Indigo Girl wasn’t even meant to be a single. Darren Scott started playing it, and it just took off – and then it went around the world. We still earn great annuities from it.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Passion Might be More Important Than A Business Background

It’s been covered in Mandarin, and this year a dance remix was released in Germany. But that’s the exception to the rule. If you want to make it in this business and build a sustainable brand and business, it takes hard work and dedication. And that takes passion.

Nadine Todd
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.