The Good (And Bad) Ways To Break Into The Music Business
by Tom Hess
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Gamblers and investors.
Which type are you?
Are you gambling with your music career or investing in it?
Let’s find out:
How “gamblers” operate in the music business:
Gamblers in the music industry operate like poker players in a Las Vegas casino.
A gambler hopes to win, but quickly folds to cut his losses if he feels he isn’t holding the winning hand.
Gamblers bet on their hand, hoping to get lucky, win big and win fast… they don’t invest for long-term gains. They have zero attachment to the hand they are holding.
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A band releases a record, but album sales are disappointing… and they can’t get signed by a record company.
So, what do they do?
Instead of learning how to improve album sales…
... they go back into the studio and spend (gamble with) more money making another record, hoping to make it big next time.
This continues until the band runs out of money or loses its motivation and falls apart like most bands do.
Would you like to be in a band like that?
Or how about this:
A musician spends all his time practicing his instrument and writing songs. He posts his songs online and sends promo packages to record companies, hoping to:
- Get discovered
- Get lucky
- Get signed to a record deal after a company hears his music.
These musicians are gambling (not investing) with their music careers. They also want someone else (a record company, a manager, a promoter, a publisher, etc.) to gamble on them too.
Here is another example:
A record company signs you to a record deal without doing any research on you beforehand.
They hope that you become successful, like a poker player hopes to get lucky and get the winning hand.
You are excited, because you feel your music career dreams are about to come true.
… 2 weeks later, the company discovers something about you that worries them.
So, what happens?
They drop you like a hot potato and you never hear from them again.
How would you feel being “signed” by a record company like that? It doesn’t work like that anymore in the music business.
Question: “Tom Hess, would a record company actually gamble on someone in this way?”
Answer: Fortunately, most record companies are smart enough NOT to gamble on musicians.
This is exactly why most bands and musicians cannot get signed. Record companies see how risky most musicians are and choose not to work with them.
Good record companies operate like investors, not like gamblers (more on this below).
Hint: this is exactly how you want record companies to operate!
Bottom line is: You don’t want to ask anyone to gamble on you or your music career. Ever.
You want an investor to invest in you.
How “investors” operate in the music industry:
Investors in the music business are like gardeners.
They look for a seed that is sure to grow into a tree and bear fruit for many years to come.
…then they invest time, energy and resources to nurture that seed and make it grow.
Who are some of the biggest investors in the music industry?
They invest their time, money, expertise, resources and reputation into musicians to help them become successful.
Record companies usually play the long game.
Unlike gamblers, they generally don’t give up on their investments at the first sign of trouble. They know that it takes time for musicians to become successful.
(I emphasize "usually" and "generally". That's because some record companies also operate with the predatory "gambler" mindset.
And if such record company ever offers you a record deal - you better run away as fast as your legs will carry you.)
But generally, record companies protect their investment during any temporary downturns, instead of abandoning it like gamblers do.
There is a catch!
Actually, there are 2 catches.
- Record companies are investors - not charities.
Their goal is to make money from their investment into you (and all musicians they work with).
This is the only reason why record companies exist.
- Record companies are VERY selective about who they work with.
They do their due diligence, to minimize their risk and maximize the return on their investment.
What are the things record companies look for in musicians (and in you)?
Watch this video to find out:
Question: “But Tom Hess, aren’t there stories of record companies “screwing” musicians out of money and opportunities?”
Answer: Yes, there are. But these stories almost always told backwards.
It is musicians who most often “screw” the record companies... not the other way around.
Yes, that’s right.
Many musicians demand more than they are entitled to from their record contract or refuse to fulfill a part of the deal they signed.
Record companies have no reason to “screw” musicians.
Here is why:
- They are the ones taking all the risk. If their relationship with the musician goes bad, the company loses its entire investment.
Imagine a stockholder intentionally sabotaging a company he holds stock in to cause the company to go bankrupt and lose his investment.
Does that make ANY sense?
Of course not.
- If a company fails to fulfill its part of a signed agreement, they can be sued.
No company wants that.
What Are The Music Career Lessons Here For You?
Which type of manager, record company or bandmates do you want to start and grow your music career with:
A gambler or an investor?
“An investor”, you say?
Then here are 3 lessons that change your music career destiny:
If you want to attract investors into your music career, become an investor yourself.
Here is how:
- Learn about the business side of music. The more you know about how business works, the easier it is to become successful in the music industry.
Everything in business (including the music business) revolves around marketing, sales, accounting, management, operations, people skills and technology.
Invest the time to learn the basics of each field. This puts you light years ahead of most musicians who only focus on music alone.
- Invest into meaningful music business relationships. Contacts matter little in the music industry… but real, authentic relationships matter a great deal.
A relationship takes time and effort to develop and each relationship is a building block of your reputation.
Read this music career article to learn how (and why) to develop solid relationships in the music business.
- Develop a solid work ethic. Get used to doing more than what is expected of you… and doing things that you aren’t obligated (or paid) to do.
When you do, you stand out from the crowd, like a raisin on a coconut cake.
Watch this video to see what it means to have a great work ethic:
- Build your track record of success.
Want to attract the attention of record companies?
Show them everything you’ve achieved on your own, using your own resources, network and resourcefulness.
For example: show them your mailing list of fans and how you’ve leveraged it to drive album sales.
Tell them what you’ve done to get more gigs and build a reputation in your area.
You don’t need to sell millions of records or tour the world to show record companies that you are a good investment for them.
Show them that you are resourceful, ambitious and hard-working.
THAT is what gets them interested in you.
- Improve your financial situation. The better your personal finances, the easier it is to invest into long-term growth of your music career.
- you can afford to go on a short tour and make little (or no) money, so you can grow your fan base and make more money on future tours.
- you can afford to work in the studio for 8 weeks to record an album without worrying about paying your bills.
You don’t need to become a millionaire before a record company invests in you. But you cannot live paycheck to paycheck either.
Record companies are more likely to invest in your music career when you aren’t struggling financially and are able to invest in your career on your own.
I’m not saying it’s easy…
… but I am saying it’s much easier than most think it is.
You probably think that you are competing with thousands of musicians who want the same opportunities you want in the music industry.
This is only half true.
There ARE thousands of musicians who want to make it… but most of them are not serious competition for you.
Most musicians are gamblers. They do little or nothing to really invest in their music careers.
…the average musician sabotages his/her own career. They do, say and think things that make them look risky to other successful musicians.
They hope to get lucky and have someone give them opportunities that would make them successful.
Others feel entitled to success, just because they are talented or write good songs.
As a result…
…they attract other gamblers just like them and repel investors (the people/companies with real power to help them).
And their careers go nowhere.
They keep working their dead-end non-music related job and continue to feel frustrated.
So, what does this mean for you?
You don’t have as much competition as you think.
Focus on becoming the best version of yourself that you can be with every action you take in your music career.
When you do, you leave most of your “competition” in the dust and attract opportunities other musicians only wish they had.
Remember how record companies research many things about you before deciding whether or not to offer you a record deal?
They do this for 2 reasons
1. They want to minimize their risk.
Record companies invest huge amounts of money into you when they work with you. Creating an album, promoting it and putting your band on tour costs many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This money is invested into you upfront, with no guarantee of a return.
2. They want to be certain of your value.
The more skills, relationships, networks, capital and reputation you already have, the less record companies have to invest into you.
It also means the potential for greater returns is higher (for you and for them).
What if you made a list of all the ways you can add value to record companies and minimized your risk?
- You could study how the music industry works (so record companies don’t have to spend money teaching you things you can learn on your own).
Reading articles like this is a good start. Getting music career mentoring from a proven mentor is a bigger step above that.
- Do the things you want record companies to do for you … on a smaller level.
For example: organize a small tour around your area.
You may not make any money on the tour, but you gain valuable experience in:
- Live performance & stage presence
- Tour logistics
- Merchandise sales
- Selling concert tickets
- Building relationships with promoters and venue owners.
Imagine 2 musicians: Musician A and Musician B.
A record company is considering both of them for a record deal.
Musician A has these credentials listed on his website and resume.
Musician B does not.
Which musician do you think is more likely to get offered a record deal (and better terms)?
Question: “Tom Hess, am I guaranteed to get a record deal if I do these things?”
Answer: Of course not. There are no guarantees in music business (or in life) about anything.
If you don't invest time, energy and money into growing your career, why should anyone else do it for you?
You now know more about what it takes to make it in the music business than most musicians. The next step is to learn how to get attention from record companies and managers, so you build your career faster. Download this free music career eGuide to learn how to get record companies to notice you & start building a career you can feel really proud of.
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains musicians how to leave their day jobs and build successful fulltime careers in the music industry.
Learn how to build a music career you’d be proud of.
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