How to make it big
There are many sides to Danielle Robert, a fourth-year music therapy student and musician at Wilfrid Laurier University. In person, Robert is soft-spoken. But while performing she commands the stage and is extremely confident. This is one of the many reasons why she has accomplished so much since beginning to seriously pursue music in grade 12 in her small town of Pain Court, Ontario.
“I’ve been approached by [record labels before]. I was in a showcase at the Rivoli in downtown Toronto and the VP of Warner Music Canada was there … everyone showcased what they had and the VP would give comment on the performance and the quality of music. He swore onstage because he was blown away by how different I sounded,” said Robert.
Despite big label interest, Robert has no interest in taking that route. She would prefer to stay as independent as possible as to not have to compromise her image or her intent as a musician. This is a reality that many young musicians face when making the transition from local to national recognition.
She currently has a healthy suspicion of the music industry and record labels, revealing that she has done extensive research on the realities behind the business deals young artists find themselves in.
“You have to be smart about it. They offer you lots of money but in the end you have to make that money back though CD sales,” said Robert.
Robert’s musical career has been a unique one when compared to other artists of her age. Getting her start at an Open Mic night at Wilf’s pub on campus, like most students, Robert has not had to actively seek a performance out since.
“Music was choosing me. It’s like a treasure map, like you go to one place and then another person listens to you and then you go from there. I’ve never had to seek out a gig. That’s how it should be, I think,” said Robert on how she got her start performing. “It speaks to the quality of your music: if it’s engaging and good music then people will see that and will reach out. That’s how I’ve been able to get gigs — by performing and performing a lot.”
Despite the heavy performing schedule, this is not Robert’s biggest stressor as an artist.
“There’s a lot of pressures as a musician: it’s how you deal with them that can make or break you. If you crumble under pressure, like doing a gig in front of the VP of Warner, that was your [only] chance. You got to keep your mental health in check and keep your core values,” said Robert.
Robert consistently emphasized the importance of mental health, appropriate considering her background in music therapy. She noted that it was extremely easy to get over-involved in the business side of music, such as promoting yourself, and to lose focus on what drives you as an artist.
“It depends on your perspective, you can actually get lost in the process … It’s important to every single day to take ten minutes and just go ‘who am I as an artist, what are my goals’ … go back to the fundamental reasons why you got into music in the first place.”