Hosting the FAC Open Artist Session with Hal Ritson: The importance of being on time, spreading risk and believing in your vision

“Making it is just the start of your problems, how to sustain career for 10 – 20 years is what it’s really about”

Hal Ritson, FAC Board Director and creator of The Young Punx, shared his experience with a group of FAC members on a rainy Tuesday evening. Hal is a songwriter, music producer & director and, above all, a true innovator. On top of gaining a wealth of experience with his own musical project, he has worked with artists such as Amanda Palmer, Dizzee Rascal and Katy Perry.

During his talk, he stressed the importance of collaboration (“it’s the only way to learn new things and improve your skills”), of being professional at all times and of knowing yourself as an artist, a person, and a business.

No single career path in music is the same, but Hal’s seems to be especially unique. He only took the plunge into full time music making at the age of 32. By this time he had already gained experience in business, skills that were transferable and infinitely useful in his music career, i.e. accounting, marketing and strategy. When asked how he landed the role of musical MD for Dizzee Rascal, he explained: “People simply new I was reliable and would get the job done”. Hal mentioned that punctuality and an air of professionalism is something he values greatly when employing musicians himself. Being a reliable, polite mediocre musician may get you a lot further than being a great musician with a lack of social skills and responsibility.

Our Open Artist Sessions are always packed with nuggets of wisdom, but few have given such practical advice as Hal on how to create a sustainable career in music: “You’ve got to have your own, strong vision of who you are as an artist and be faithful to that. Not everyone is going to like what you do, but don’t let that put you off!”

“Your career should be driven by who you are as an artist, i.e. what makes you happy, but you should also explore all other skills you have that might be adjacent to your main project… maybe being a session musician, or writing library music. This is calculated risk spreading: After a while you will be able to asses what, out of all the things you do, makes you happy, what makes you money, what works and what doesn’t”

Hal, who has toured Japan extensively with the Young Punx, also stressed the importance of exploring other markets: “The world is big! Just because three A&R guys in London say no to you doesn’t mean that you can’t nurture a dedicated fan base on an international level”.

Hal, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise with the FAC membership, it may have been a small group gathered in the Gallery of Tileyard studios, but we all left feeling like the luckiest FAC members. Here’s to the next Open Artist Session. Thank you!

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