Today’s music business is both more difficult to navigate, and filled with many amazing opportunities.
This month, we’ll look at ways to use the state of the current music business to become full time artists and how we can make a good living doing so. Remember, being a full-time artist doesn’t mean being poor. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
The gate keepers are gone.
In decades gone by, the music business had gate keepers that controlled what choices you had for music consumption. There were six, then five and now three major labels, and if you weren’t on one of these or one of their subsidiaries, you really couldn’t play, or get played. Now though, while world domination is still a major label game, the independent music scene and the business that has arisen to support it has many revenue streams so that artists, with some hard work and study, can make a good living.
This is mostly because of the leveling of the playing field brought to us by the world wide web. The internet and the multitude of businesses that have grown up around it allow artists to get heard by people all over the world without label support of any kind. But because everyone now has access, you have to find ways of standing out of the crowd — it is a “seeing the forest for the trees” problem. It is more important than ever before to know who you are as an artist so that you can find your audience, the people that will want to hear your music and pay for the privilege.
In future articles, I will be talking in depth about the processes to do this, however, the first step is to have a clear idea of who you are, and what you are going to offer an audience. It sounds simple and even obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of artists that don’t ask themselves this basic question and if you don’t know the answer to any of the following questions, you must find out. Otherwise, you won’t be able to find your audience and you won’t be able to find the fans your music deserves, which means you will be the stereotypical starving artist, and no one wants that!
First, why do you make music? This is really important. Perhaps you have a story to tell, or you want to engage folks in a political discussion, or maybe you just want to entertain.
Whatever you want to do musically, that’s fine. No shame in wanting to be rich and/or famous, just be honest about what it is you want to do and why.
How much time and money are you willing to spend on your music career?
It is a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be an artist, but for me, it is totally worth it! Again, be honest here about how much money you can realistically spend, and how much time away from friends and family you are willing to put up with to be in the music industry. Remember, with a good plan of action, you can be successful, and you will be able to spend more time and money as you work towards your goals , so it is okay if at first, you have little to give. Just remember when you do spend time and money on your music, you want to make sure that you are doing so wisely and with the goal of increasing the amount you are able to spend.
Finally, and I hate that this is necessary, but we have to discover what genre your music falls under. Think about this very carefully as it is a critical piece of the puzzle to have this answer ready so you can find your audience. In a perfect world, music would be allowed to be what it is, an elemental force that has no boundaries, but sadly to market our music we have to decide at least on a broad umbrella genre to start with. If you are an eclectic artist, like myself, know the road will be a little harder for you, but you can make it! For artists that fall under an eclectic style, you can use the trick I use, which is to market myself as a broad spectrum artist, while very narrowly branding each album, EP or single very specifically.
In the next article, we will talk about finding your audience and what you will need to do to monetize this process. Until then, keep making incredible music and feel free to write in with your questions.