Tom Fields, a 21-year-old aspiring musician, has been writing and creating music since high school. What initially started out as a joke between him and a friend, Chris Petra, led to the duo creating rap and hip-hop style songs that were conceived from inside jokes to share with their friends.
“We would sit in his basement for hours working on this stuff–which we thought was hysterical at the time and show our friends,” Petra says. “But I’m not sure if they were always laughing with us or at us and how ridiculous the whole thing was.”
However, in college Fields decided to take his humorous hobby and turn it into a bigger dream to become successful and have a broad spectrum of people listen and love his music.
The aspiring songwriter and performer released his first EP last year, We Owe This to Ourselves, a compilation of songs written and mixed solely by him. The EP featured 12 hip-hop and rap inspired songs written on feelings, experiences and dilemmas Fields faced throughout his life.
“When it comes to music, you need to represent yourself,” he says.
Fields didn’t stop there. Since then he has been working on his next project, which he claims is going to be bigger and better than his first release. Spending all his time creating beats, mixing songs and sampling former releases, Fields considers this a full-time job.
“People don’t think it’s serious, but I work 10 times harder than a nine-to-five job,” he says. “There are a million doctors out there but musicians are important too. I want to make music people care about.”
Heather Rosenbaum met Fields two years ago through mutual friends and recognized his talent right away.
“He dedicates so much time making beats and lyrics,” she says. “Even beats he jokingly makes for fun, I find actually enjoying.”
Despite the continuous support from friends and family, Fields often feels discouraged when considering the future with his art. Rosenbaum, who is an aspiring pottery artist, says that it’s difficult to gain success as a struggling artist.
“To actually take the time to create something that not only you hope people will enjoy but make them feel a certain emotion is so hard to do,” she says.
Fields says that in an age where everything is easily obtainable, it’s hard to get his name out in the open. “You hear about main stage people, their first stage in the beginning and their last stage to success… Never in between.”
Even Fields’ friends say they’re worried about him getting exposure.
“His friends all know he’s extremely talented but I think he has trouble getting his music to new ears,” says Petra. “Also, another problem musicians face in general is the lack of funding. It’s very hard to make a living purely off making music.”
In a digital age where free music is available at the touch of a button, Fields not only worries about exposure but being paid to continue his art. Success and fortune do not come easy.
Lela Haddad gained success with her band, Wisteria, and eventually began managing musicians under a record label. She says that today, musicians face the struggle of being signed, exposed and paid for their work.
She says that when she came of age during the Ramones years, “You didn’t have to get signed. You set up your tours during the indie scene.”
Eventually everyone started to be self-producing and nobody would gain money from it. “Getting exposure today is so easy [with the Internet], but being able to get paid is the real issue,” she says.
With self-promoting via Internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, BandCamp and SoundCloud, musicians are succumbed to publish free downloads in order to gain a fan base.
“The digital age makes being a musician more obscure,” says Jay Fields, Tom’s father who worries that his son will struggle with funds. “It makes it harder to be compensated for it.”
Even his friends agree that in order to become successful, Fields needs to network to get his name out.
“I think he should start passing out his music and bug labels… not just to Facebook and his friends,” says Derrick Forkel. “The way he spreads himself is nonexistent.”
Haddad agrees with Forkel. She says that there is a way for musicians to make money that she learned while performing.
“The sure way to make money in the biz is by selling your music to movies and TV,” she says. By selling the rights to a song you created you are compensated every time the song plays in a movie, show or commercial.
Another tip Haddad has for aspiring musicians to gain success is to “Trust the people you’re with,” she says. “And know your craft.”
Despite all these obstacles, Fields’ friends say they believe in him.
“I think Tom has a very successful future ahead of him if he stays consistent with the work he’s been producing,” says Petra.
To stream Fields’ first album, check out tomfields.bandcamp.com