Making a mistake can be problematic—you know, assuming you realize you've fucked up—but it can also be a great thing. In the moment, sure, there might be stress and trouble and, depending on the mistake, involvement by the police, but assuming nobody is dead, making mistakes is how we learn and how we grow as humans.
Artists are no different—they too make mistakes on the daily. Entering the music business presents an inordinate number of daily challenges, many of which can only be tackled with the kind of experience that comes with learning from previous mistakes and the mistakes of others.
Thanks to the proliferation of social media, music fans have been led to believe that artists only live lavish, luxurious, stress-free lives, but the reality is that they are dealing with the same pitfalls as the rest of us. To help remind our readers—many of whom are themselves artists or creatives in the music industry—that we are all the same, we decided to start a new series at DJBooth entitled Valuable Mistakes, in which artists share, in hindsight, the biggest mistake of their career and why it proved to be valuable.
The most valuable mistake I've ever made was getting myself in $45,000 of debt.
In my early 20s, I co-signed on my condo with my mother, took out student loans, and bought a brand new car to have "reliable" transportation. As a newlywed, my wife and I were really struggling and made the decision to clean up our mess. Rather than viewing ourselves as victims of the economy or our circumstances, we decided to figure it all out. And so we set out on a debt-free journey. In just 18 months, we paid off all our debt. We followed the principles outlined by motivational speaker Dave Ramsey and it worked! This was the first time in my life that I really learned to hustle.
I had to figure out ways to create revenue streams and approach my career in music like an actual business. I had to learn to manage my money and I had to learn to save. And so after we became debt-free, we took a breather, did a good amount of travel before our first son was born, and used that same momentum to save six to nine months worth of expenses. When my son was about six months old, I made the decision (with my family) to transition into a full-time career in music.
I remember being in the middle of New Mexico at some random diner while on tour, and I called my wife and asked her if we could "pray about quitting my job" and she replied, "There isn't nothing to pray about, you need to put your two-week notice in the moment you get home."
She was a stay-at-home mom and I was an artist with no management, no label, no representation, no booking agent and no major co-signs—and I decided to quit my job.
Next month, my son turns three. It hasn't been the smoothest road, but by the grace of God, our bills are always paid, we're still debt-free and I have some money in savings. I still have no representation, and we are a long ways away from financial comfort, but we're enjoying this journey.
Going into massive debt was a stupid mistake, but it turned out to be quite valuable. It built character, helped me to grow and, quite critically, equipped me to go into music full-time. I hope young artists learn about the importance of financial literacy, hopefully, avoiding the mistakes I made.