The Value of Art in Music

Thoughts from Austin’s Rap Ambassador, Tee Double

Words by Adam Gestwicki  Photos by Eric Morales

“Other people won’t value it, or give it any worth until you see the value in it first.”

For most musicians starting out, they sometimes don’t understand the business behind music, how to make themselves lucrative, or how to brand their work as valuable. They don’t know if there’s space for their sound. Terrany will tell you, “Sometimes artists are so happy they get into a venue; they don’t care what the stipulations are. They see getting a few free beers as thanks enough for a half hour set.” In no other business are three beers enough compensation for the work provided, so why is that suddenly okay in these situations?

Terrany Johnson, rapping under the moniker Tee Double, began making music at the age of 7. By the age of 9, he produced and shipped out his first mix tape. On weekends, he’d go to Sears with his mother. While she shopped, he’d rig up microphones to tape recorders, press play on one stereo and record on another. He’d make a demo tape in the time it took her to shop or at least have a few tracks down before customer service got wind of what he was doing. You can probably guess this was the 90’s with the technology he was working with.

Fast forward to today—his home studio is more impressive than most recording spaces. There’s a lineage of gear stacked up: each keyboard and drum machine iconic for the certain sounds it produces. Walk into the room and you’ll be met with a continuous pulsing of sound, rhythmically weaving itself together, encasing you into a beat. Every time he mentions a keyboard, he talks about the importance of its unique sound. Its signature tone is something the machine owns and can’t be duplicated. That’s wisdom he expels to anyone else with whom he works: “Own your Music.” Adherent to that ideology, it’s important to put value on your art and craft. His belief is that “other people won’t value it, or give it any worth until you see the value in it first.”

He hasn’t slowed down since his start but has gone on with the same tenacity, releasing at least two albums per year, and being an active proponent in Austin’s music community, whether it be through working on the board at SXSW or Black Fret, an organization that serves to give financial support and music grants to up-and-coming artists and groups. All of his work has culminated into founding and working through the UAA (Urban Austin Alliance).

“I started the Alliance as a means to help artists where I wish I would’ve had help. Not only in talking to venues, but helping them understand how to manage their income, save for recording equipment, even sometimes helping them record and produce. That can be a struggle, when you’ve been broke, and someone gives you $5,000. In the long run, $5,000 is nothing if you don’t use it the right way. In the moment, it looks like every problem you’ve ever had has been solved and you’ve got everything you’ve ever wanted… and you finally have enough for that PS4 you wanted.”

He says he’s called the Ambassador because he’s the guy who gets things done—the guy who doesn’t mind being in the trenches with venues and making sure everyone’s getting what they deserve. He’s constantly working and making a space for sound in Austin for up-and-coming R&B artists. This is not to say that venues are the enemy. Terrany will say that when artists succeed, the venue succeeds. People get excited about talent, they want to see talent, and venues should be looking for what they find of value in you, rather than just filling a bill.



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