The Rolling Stones are an act that have remained successful throughout six decades – perhaps longer than any other active entertainer in the marketplace. Living in an age where many artists peak with a single album or a single song and then fade into their own niche, there is a lot that the Rolling Stones can teach no matter if you are a rapper, a singer, a band, or a multi-genre artist. This list is important. The same strategies and techniques that the Rolling Stones used to gain and sustain their popularity are still relevant today, and continue to be used by some of music’s biggest names including Kanye West, Rihanna, and Chance the Rapper.
#1 Make it Raw
The Rolling Stones’ biggest artistic and commercial successes were when the band always played honest, raw, and dirty. Many artists today are tempted to sanitize and generalize their music in order to achieve a bigger audience. If you are trying to break into the general audience and the consciousness of the people, the most effective way to do that is by being yourself and by being your honest, raw self. Don’t be afraid to be vulgar, shy, or emotional if that is who you are. When you try to commercialize your music, the audience will see right through it and more importantly, listening back to your tracks, you will realize that this wasn’t you.
#2 Keep your Eyes on Current Trends
Though the Rolling Stones are effectively a blues band, they have always shown an ability to adapt to trends in music resulting in some of their biggest hits including in dance with Miss You, in country with Honky Tonk Women, in rock with Brown Sugar, roots rock with Love is Strong, and others. This is not about sacrificing who you are as an artist but simply being aware of modern sounds in music, and finding a way to blend to these modern sounds – either adopting them, reacting to them, or purposefully refusing them. If you are not in some way reacting to what is going on in the world today, you risk struggling to be relevant and struggling to make sales.
#3 Know Who you are and Don’t Try to be Anyone Else
The Rolling Stones released the album Blue and Lonesome in December, 2016 to critical acclaim and strong sales. This album does not contain any original compositions but is simply the Stones playing blues in the same way that the Stones have played the blues ever since they began in the early 1960s. This is a band that knows what it is, what its audience expects, and that are capable of delivering that to them. It is ok to experiment. It is another thing to abandon your identity altogether in favor of what’s new.
#4 Don’t Be Stupid about Money, Recording Contracts, or Songwriting Credits
There was a lot of money that was taken from the Rolling Stones throughout the 1960s and early 1970s due to bad management, not paying attention to the types of contracts that they were signing, and due to bad accounting. Today the music industry is very competitive for artists as there are a lot more of them in competition and there is a lot less money to be made by artists. Retain as much value as you can. Always get someone you trust and an authority figure to look over any contracts, to supervise money changing hands, and maximize your legal rights as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and do not put your future into the hands of someone you do not trust.
#5 Always Put the Music First
No matter if you are an independent artist or in a band, always put the music first. If there are disputes surrounding the music or if something is awry with your management, sort it out in a mature way and always do what is best for the brand, for the music, and for the song.