How to make it in the music industry.
Such a popular question, one that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue that enters as well as those who’ve been in for a while without any success. Those who don’t know are confused and those who understand pretend there’s some sort of secret sauce.
First, what does “making it”mean? What does it mean TO YOU? Is it making a good living in the industry or does it mean reaching celebrity status? Is it getting a Record Deal? What is it?
This is really an important question because the answer will determine how complex your road to success will be.
If money is the target, that’s easy as there’s plenty of opportunities out there for you to capitalize on, you just have to know where to look. If it’s celeb status, well, that’s a lot more difficult.
So, what does it take to make a good living?
Some common music industry myths:
1) You need a lot of talent to succeed in the music industry
I believe you need ‘some’ talent, but you don’t need to be the most talented person in the world.You have to be able to deliver what the client wants and to be honest, they don’t always “need” or “want” the best of work according to the “creator’s” standards.
I know that might be hard to believe because everyone says “hone your skills” “Make sure the music is really good” “Focus on GREAT QUALITY music” I would say being able to deliver a quality mix and meeting deadlines trump talent and perfection any day.
2) It’s hard to make a living in the music industry
True, but it doesn’t have to be. I find that people tend to make things harder on themselves than they need to. People are afraid to move out of their comfort zones.
If touring is what you love, but you’re not successful with it, that might not be your calling. Some people are great songwriters, but suck as performing artists and vice versa. We’re all aware of 1 hit wonders and or acts that have been signed to big labels, and then later dropped.Years pass, and you wonder…. “What happened to those guys?”. You have to adapt. You can’t cater to a market that doesn’t exist and forcing an old sound on a newer generation? That doesn’t work.
Look at it this way, if it wasn’t working for you 10 -20 years ago that might be a hint. It’s time to make a change!.
3) You need expensive music equipment
It depends on the type of music you’re creating, who your audience is and what you consider expensive. There’s a lot you can do in a home studio these days. In fact, a lot of cues, gameaudio and scores are being created and mixed in the box these days.
I know you see magazines and recording studios full of expensive gear, but that’s not needed. Big recording studios record tons of artists, musicians and rent their facility out to production companies. They run a pretty big operation, so it makes sense.
Think about how silly a big studio would look if everyone hovered over 1 computer and a pair of Yamaha NS10 monitors.
Would you take that establishment seriously? – Most wouldn’t
Now, in a home studio, nothing has to look pretty, it just has to work. The clients and fans only care about 1 thing, and that’s if the music sounds good.I went in a little longer than I expected on that one, but what I’m trying to say is. Don’t feed into the bull..
4)You Need To Be Original, Originality = Longevity
I don’t care what any industry professional tells you, ‘original music’ doesn’t guarantee anything. Good music = longevity and good music isn’t always original.Back in the day, when music was harder to create, if you had a sound or style that people liked, they had to come to you to get it.These days, there isn’t a sound you can bring to the table that can’t be replicated. Technology has taken the mystery out of this, and it gets easier with each and every software update.Most clients want something that sounds similar to something they’ve already heard anyway.“I’m looking for a song that sounds like this”, “can you create something like that?”, “I need a hit that sounds like so and so”.
Older musicians rave about how authentic and original music was in their day. Truth is, if you study older music (from any era or genre) you’ll notice that it was just as unoriginal then as it is today.
Everyone was leeching off the success and sound from the next band or group, or trying to, some were successful and others, not so much.
So, How Do You Succeed In The Music Industry?
1) Stay In The Loop
I know It’s hard to stay updated with the latest and greatest applications, mixing methods or music trends, but do the best you can. If there’s a software application or update that will improve your workflow GET IT.
2) Build Strong Relationships
Ask any successful person how they got to where they are and how they maintain their success and they’ll tell you “I have friends in high places” or something along those lines. Having connections makes a difference.Every month I find opportunities in my in box from people I’ve worked with over the years. They pass projects my way because they’ve worked with me and know I deliver in a timely fashion once contracted. These are types of relationships that keep food and opportunities on the table.
3) No Fan Base = No Career
A must have, especially for bands and artists. You have to have someone to sell your products to. No fan base = no sells, no sells = you go broke, that doesn’t sound like fun in my book.Building a fan base does take time, but a lot easier than it use to be. Some artists don’t even perform, they just build a social following or email list (of fans) and direct the traffic back to their singles, albums and shows.Some are even clever enough to build their following online and then launch a script on their site that allows fans to suggest or where they play next. From there the band can map out a mini tour based on the interest and location of their fans. It’s extremely effective if it is done correctly.
4) Analyze Markets & It’s Competition
People always say, “don’t worry about what the next man is doing” I disagree; you should pay close attention to what the competition is doing. Why struggle when you don’t have to? People have already made the mistakes and done the trial and error for you, learn from them!
5) Give Up A % Of Your Publishing – Be Worth Someone’s Time
Yes, I’m telling you to go out there and bend over. Give a percentage of your rights. You do want people to help you make money right? Make it interesting for them.
6) Be Flexible – Keep Your Options Open
Be willing to accept contract jobs. Not everyone can make it as a top record producer, musician or performing artist. Don’t let this frustrate and stop you from earning good money in other areas of the industry.
There are talented singers who make a killing doing voiceovers. I know a lot of audio engineers who make good money editing sound for video, games, audio books and all sorts of random things.
Yes, this might not be where they wanted to be initially, but it’s still audio related, and it’s opened doors to other paying gigs allowing them to make a living from their craft.
7) Always Be Creating Music!
This industry is a numbers game. The more music you create, the more material you have to shop around. If someone likes a song of yours chances are they’re going to ask for more and if all you have is 5 that could be a missed opportunity.
Why ask for more?
It is because they want to hear your range, your consistency and if you’re someone who has enough music to submit on a regular basis.
8) Keep Moving Forward
You’re going to hear “no” a lot. Deals will fall through, people are going to tell you “you’re not good enough”, and family may doubt you. You may also even doubt yourself, push all that nonsense aside, and just keep moving forward. Good things happen to those who are consistent and persistent with their goals.