The beginners guide to making it in the Provo music scene


Jake Justice’s band, The Strike, won BYU’s Battle of the Bands in March. The Strike’s dreams are big as they stand, literally, on the cusp of success. The question is, what should be done next to propel them to the big time?

Although an artist or a group may have the sound it takes to be recognized, many other factors play into their success. Well-known local artists Ryan Innes, Amy Whitcomb and Cameron Rafati shared some of their secrets to success.

1. Do the work

Local musician Ryan Innes, a former BYU student, recently earned a spot to compete on NBC’s “The Voice.” Innes mentioned that the Provo music scene is becoming more than just a hobby for most.

“I would just say that for one, the Provo music scene is turning into a scene where you can’t just be a hobbyist or a ‘weekend warrior’ type of musician,” Innes said.

Before going on “The Voice,” Innes performed multiple times per week throughout the area. He mentioned that his passion for music is what carried him through the tougher times and allowed him to continue pursuing his dream.

“I would just say first and foremost it’s got to be something that they absolutely love to do, that they’re doing it for the right reason and that they’re obsessed with it and it really is at the core of their being, so to speak,” Innes said.

2. Play every gig you can

Innes’ philosophy is that diligence and endurance win the race.

“Keep pushing forward,” Innes said. “Take every gig you can, no matter if you’re playing for four people or for 400. Make sure that you’re interacting with the people that are supporting you, because they are the lifeline. They really make the world go round for a musician and an artist.”

Amy Whitcomb, a former BYU student and Innes’ fellow contestant on “The Voice,” agreed with Innes.

“It sounds cliche, but one gig really does lead to another,” Whitcomb said. “So just like Ryan said, get in every gig because the more you experiment and the more you try and get outside your box, the more you realize and understand what you can do and what your direction is and should be.”

Cameron Rafati, a local artist, moved to Los Angeles about two years ago looking for a change in his music career. One of the things he learned early on is it doesn’t matter where he is, but it is still important to tour.

“I don’t think you need to be in L.A. as an artist, but you do need to tour,” Rafati said.

He mentioned that touring is what really builds an artist’s community. Rafati said networking, meeting new people and touring are some of the things that have made a big difference in his career.

“If I were a beginning artist, I would hone my talents at home and then find ways and network with bands to go tour with them,” Rafati said. “Always keep connected to shows in Salt Lake and Provo, but also travel to do shows in places like Las Vegas and Southern California. Get in a van and go do it.”

3. Overcome the enemy: Your ego

Tyler Monks, executive director of the Utah Music Association, said the biggest enemy any artist will have is his or her pride.

“Your greatest enemy in the music business will be your ego, thinking you are better than you really are,” Monks said. “If you need a reality check on how good you are, move to Los Angeles, New York or Nashville for a year.”

Monks mentioned that overcoming pride, working hard and touring in the right places would be a good beginning point for musicians that are just starting out in the Utah music scene.

4. Don’t forget your roots

Although Rafati emphasized the importance of touring, he also mentioned that holding on to his roots plays a big role in his happiness.

“There’s no formula for success in this business,” he said. “But the roots are the most important thing. They are the only thing that make me happy.”

Justice and the rest of The Strike plan to continue working hard to ensure the success of their group.

“It’s been inspirational for us to see how many bands have made it big out of Provo,” Justice said. “We are excited to get our sound out past the mountain and see what else is out there.”

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