In honor of blues legend Bessie Smith, HBO is rolling out a three-day extravaganza, the Bessie 81 Theatre tour, ahead of the forthcoming film (airing May 16) to highlight the vocalist’s lasting impact on music.
For the network’s first event, veteran producer/songwriter Bryan-Michael Cox and famed singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe took over Manhattan’s Stephen Weiss Studios on Tuesday (April 28) to tackle questions about their journey through the music industry. Here, VIBE collected gems from the intimate panel to inspire your next hustle.
1. Keep a clear focus on your goals within the music industry: “As creatives, you are your own business. Understand the business that you’re in. Understand that your creativity is an intellectual property. Don’t give it away, and even if they’re going to pay for it, make them pay premium for it.” — Cox
2. When striving to create something great, give it your all no matter what: “In this day, you can’t be mediocre. It’s either you’re terrible or you’re exceptional.”—Barthe
3. Success will not happen overnight: “The main thing that I tell people all of the time is that this business is a marathon. It’s not a sprint, and you have to be in it for the long haul. The ups and downs of it, the whole nine. For me, I looked up and it’s been 20 years […] I’m 37, but I’m looking at where I’m going to be at 50. You have to have that vision, too. You can’t say, “I didn’t make it this year so I’m out!’ You can’t do that, you have to keep it going.”—Cox
4. Finding a commonality with Bessie Smith: “I relate to her as a woman, just being sexually ambiguous. I don’t see race, color, gender. I see souls and I saw that with her. Whether it was a man, woman, music, she loved and loved hard. Her passion led her. That’s my story. I never had a plan, I just had passion.” —Barthe
5. On the future of the music business: “For me, it’s important to see people wanting to carry on the legacy of extending our culture from a world music perspective, but understanding that the music business is shifting and these faces are going to be the new faces of what the next generation of the music business is going to be.” —Cox
6. On remaining level-headed within the creative industry: “Be likeable, that’s it. There are a lot of less-talented people who are making it just because they have a great attitude. Talent doesn’t matter when it comes to somebody liking you. You could be the most talented and somebody in power doesn’t like you and then you get shut down. Just be a good person.” —Barthe
Photos By: Dorothy Hong