There are millions of people interested in making a career on the music business, but here is the thing: people are so interested in the “music” part that they forget the “business”. The business side of things can make it or break it for any musician and sadly a lot of people don’t pay much attention to it.
There are many reasons why musicians usually don’t give business a lot of interest: they are never taught about it, they have little belief in themselves as business people, they usually get bad deals or simply believe music alone can push them to success. And the reality is that a business-savvy musician is one in a million and here you have a few tips to not only survive in the music business, but to thrive in it:
1. Social media is marketing king.
Long gone are the days where a label or another type of company was in charge of promotion and musicians only had to focus on making their songs and playing live–now it’s the time to be more self-made than ever. Thanks to the rise of social media, musicians now have a lot more tools to get their product out there and get people’s attention.
We’re not talking just about Spotify here, people: you can engage with your audiences on Facebook and Twitter through Q&As, showcase pictures of concerts on Instagram, constantly sharing interesting content on a YouTube channel where they can have more access on how your band works and many other options that are constantly showing up because digital marketing is a growing industry.
2. Constantly looking for opportunities of promotion.
There are a lot of music websites out there looking for more bands to write about and it would behoove you to contact them in order to arrange reviews of your albums and even perhaps a couple of interviews. This is a key aspect when it comes to the music business: you need to constantly look for opportunities instead of waiting for them to come.
Go to their websites, use the “Contact option” and engage with them to see if they are interested in listening to your music and perhaps do an interview. The more you do this, more connections you are going to have and when you have new stuff coming out, you will have a lot more contacts to spread the word out there.
Never underestimate the power of fandom and how far it can take you.
3. When negotiating, learn how to propose a win-win situation.
This applies to all forms of business, but it’s particularly important for a musician: when you are holding a negotiation with labels, marketing agencies and such, they are going to ask you why they should invest time and effort on your band and what do you guys have that they can seize. Don’t take it personal or as if they are evil corporations trying to play with you: they just want to know what the benefit is for them (just like you by trying to start a working relationship with them).
So, when getting ready for that meeting, make sure to have a clear notion of what you’re going to say, whether it’s face to face or through the internet: tell them what the band is all about, the career you have until that point, your impact and influence on social media, the type of demographic that you can appeal to (your target audience) and what could they get in return by supporting you.
The music business, like in any other industry, is about the win-win. You use that, you got a big edge over a lot of your competition.
4. Have a long-term plan in mind.
A key element for a successful career in the music business (or in any other career, to be fair) is that you need to have a clear notion of where you want to be in short, medium and long-term. Once you understand where you want to go, then the decisions to get there become a lot clearer.
Metallica wanted to become one of the biggest Metal bands, so in the early 90s they worked with star producer Bob Rock to take them to the next level and their 1991 self-titled album became a worldwide hit, with tracks like Enter Sandman or Nothing Else Matters becoming classics of the genre. Yes, they got backlash from fans with claims that they were “selling out”, but their endgame was always to make it big and hiring Rock was essential to make that happen.
What type of career do you want to have? Do you just want to make albums and publish them? Do you want to tour around the world? Make money? All of them? The music business works differently for each group of musicians, so think about this before making any life-changing decision.
The music business is complicated, but far from impossible. If this is your dream, we can safely tell you that you can make it, but you have to put in the work, the intelligence and the dedication to make it happen.
At the end of the day, it’s your decision.