Being an Independent Artist and the “Hollywood No”

April 16, 2019
Tamtam playing guitar
Tamtam in front of the Hollywood sign

The independent artist:  

I moved to LA four years ago to pursue my passion of becoming a singer and songwriter. I am so grateful to have been able to come here and meet so many incredible musicians, producers, and entrepreneurs in music and beyond.

Los Angeles is a special place because it is the hub of the music industry. Before I moved here, I told myself I had to be here. This is where everybody in music is! At least in my mind, it was.

I was right. This is where a lot of people are.

But when there is that kind of traffic in any industry, then you know there will be a lot of other people to sift through, before getting to the legitimate people. When I say ‘other' people, I mean people who say they are managers or producers, yet they do not have the passion or time for it.

If you move to LA not knowing anyone in the music industry as I did, then you will definitely meet some shady people before meeting the real deals. And I spent time meeting those kinds of people, from photographers to music video directors, even movie producers (don’t know how I got on that boat, but you live and you learn!).

Tamtam on Hollywood boulevard
Tamtam on Hollywood Blvd while shooting the music video for "Hollywood No"

7 Steps On How to Be Taken Seriously as an Independent Artist and Musician in Hollywood:

Finally, after four years, I can say that I have sifted through most of the talkers in the industry. Almost every day now I have meetings with amazing, creatives, artists and business minds. And most importantly, when I do meet someone who is shady, I know how to identify them right away!

So, before moving on, I wanted to give my fellow independent artists some tips on how to be taken seriously in the music industry. Especially if you are a female independent artist.

1. ALWAYS, ALWAYS Listen to Your Gut

Almost every single time I got screwed over by someone I was working with, I had a gut feeling that I should not work with them from the first time I met them!

I do not mean that your feelings are always going to be right the first time you meet someone, but really pay attention to that, do not ignore it. Then meet with them a couple more times, and see how you feel.

If you are still feeling unsure or uncomfortable, that is your gut telling you no. Listen to it! This does not mean they are a bad person, or that they have negative intentions towards you. It could just mean that they are not the right person for you to be working with at this point-in-time.

2. Do Not Give the Money Before You See the Honey

I cannot emphasize this point enough, and maybe the only way to really understand this is if you do make the mistake of paying someone before their job is complete.

But you should not!

The most legitimate people in any field, whether they are a photographer, filmmaker, music producer, etc. have the confidence to know that their results are going to satisfy you.

If they ask to be paid beforehand, then that is a red flag because it shows that they are insecure. It also shows that they are paranoid, which is just not a good vibe to work with.

If, however, they ask for a contract, that is not something to be afraid of. It is actually good. Contracts should protect both parties, but MAKE SURE you have a lawyer to look through the contract before you sign it. You could pay half their fee before the job is done and a half after. But, I recommend getting something signed before doing that, which takes me to the next point.

3. You Definitely Need a Lawyer

I know lawyers can be expensive, but it is so much more worth it to have a great lawyer, than to get screwed over by someone because you did not sign a contract.

At the same time, remember that a contract is just as good as the two people who sign it.

So again, if you feel like the person is gonna screw you over, do not rely on the contract to protect you. Because if they are dishonest and they are not phased by the fact that you have a contract, then the only way to get your money back is to sue. And you will probably lose much more money suing someone.

So, just do not do business with people who are sketchy, and you know if they are sketchy or not (remember your gut will tell you!).

4. Confidence is Everything

Some people are born confident. While others, like myself, are extremely shy. If you meet me, you probably would not be able to tell that I am shy, and that is why I am gonna share with you my secrets to looking confident.

You know the term 'fake it till you make it'? It’s actually genius. Because when you fake something, you are in a way tricking your mind to believe it. When you think something, the power of manifestation comes into play, and becomes real, very quick.

For example, when you are heading to a meeting and you are nervous or shy - always smile! Smiling puts the other person at ease and that in turn can calm your nerves as well.

Ask questions!

Asking someone about their day or something about their job means they have to start talking, which gives you a break to breathe, relax and listen. Everybody likes to talk about themselves. Especially when the other person is listening to them. This will make them remember having a good meeting with you.

5. Be Ready

I recommend that you look in the mirror every single morning and say this to yourself:

I Am Ready

Say it until you know it and believe it. I say this because one of the most common things you will hear from music industry people when you meet them is: “great stuff here, but you are not ready yet.”

This is the most frustrating thing to hear. You are less likely to hear it if you are following the advice above. Especially the one about confidence, and believing You Are Ready.
You have to also show them that you are ready by having a dropbox folder or USB with your EPK, your music, and some photos. Make sure everything is all on-brand. If you do not have a budget and have creative friends, they can help you start to get your branding right. Aligning between your music, your photos, your EPK, and your style is very important.

6. Connections are Important

Find music organizations, places, and events you can go to, to meet other people involved with music. A lot of universities, especially in LA, have music industry programs. You should contact them and see what events they have. Most of the time, their events are not just for the students, they are open to the public.

So sign up and go!

One of them I can recommend is the Music Industry Committee (MIC) at UCLA. They often have amazing talks from really successful people in the music industry.

Having good connections is going to help you connect with more people who are legitimate in the music industry.


I am saving the best for last. This really is the key!

No matter what you want to achieve in life, you have to have patience.

There is an Arabic quote I love: “الصبر مفتاح الفرج”

It means “Patience is the key to solution”.

And it really is.

I hope you know that good things sometimes take time, and sometimes can happen so fast!

You never know what is going to happen or what your journey is going to look like. But I can promise you that you are doing yourself a huge favor by being patient.

It is not always easy, but my patience tips are:

Pray and Meditate - sit in silence for 5 minutes, turn on a candle, listen to your breath.

Do yoga - it is like a massage for all your organs and your whole body!

All of this is going to help people take you more seriously in the music business. Because patience means you are not in a hurry.

You are not going to sign the first deal that shows up because you do not think you are gonna get another one. And you are not going to believe everything that you hear.

Patience means you are going to listen, and you are going to take it in. You are going to think about it and digest it and listen to your gut.

The Hollywood No

Tamtam singer in front of Hollywood sign
Tamtam while filming the music video for her song "Hollywood No"

I wish I could tell you that the music industry journey is an easy one. I can only speak for myself in saying that it is not easy. It also does not have to be hard.

As long as you know that you are doing this because it is your passion, your self-expression and freedom, then I want you to know that you are doing it for the right reasons.

I always believe that there would be more peace in this world if everybody was actually doing what they want to do. Because more people would be satisfied, and fewer people would ask themselves “what if?”

Just know that you are here for a reason. And also know that everybody has their own timing.

Trust in the process, and trust in the timing of your journey.

I want to finish by explaining the term “Hollywood no”.

If you look it up online you would not even find it, you will probably find my song called Hollywood No.

I wrote it because one day I had a meeting with a really big agent. I was really nervous.

At this point, I did not have as much music out.

I was hoping that she would love my music and tell me she had my back. That she was going to introduce me to producers and writers and all.

She actually did say some of those things!

She said my music was great, but of course, I needed some more developing, and she said she would connect me to some people. She asked me to remind her by emailing her in case I do not hear back. I thanked her and smiled really big because I was so happy and overwhelmed. And that was it.

One week went by, and I didn’t hear from her, so I emailed her to remind her. That same week I had dinner with a couple of friends, and one of them is in the film industry. He was talking to me and said, do you know what a “Hollywood No” is? I said “No”. He said “It’s when people in this business don’t have the guts to say no, so they say yes, and then they ignore you.”

I laughed because it was a funny term and it was true!

But I did not believe this was a Hollywood No story. Two weeks went by, I sent another email, three weeks, four weeks, another email... nothing.

Ouch, it hurts when you’re hit with the Hollywood No. That was my first of many 'Hollywood no' experiences.

And that is OK because with pain comes creativity. After several emails and no answer, I got on my piano stool, and like a brooding artist, I wrote my song Hollywood No.

Watch the "Hollywood No" Music Video, and let me know what you think on my Youtube Channel!

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